Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions


How can you not love Diego Rivera?

This one - The Flower Carrier, 1935 - is here in SF at the MoMA. Rivera also left a number of enormous murals throughout the city, notably in the inside of the top of Coit Tower, and also at the Diego Rivera Theater over at City College. The scope of his work is incredible in person. And this one is one of my favorites, not just because of the hydrangeas, but because of the color palette, the strength, the warmth, and the unspoken sympathy for workers' rights.

Sweet.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.

According to the chalk calendar at Whole Foods, today is Corn Chip Day. So, Happy Corn Chip Day.

Been a little absent. Sorry about that. A little thing called Life got in the way. But happily, January's just shy of over, and it's been one of the driest in several years here. I know I should wish for the rain that will feed the lawns in the months to come, but I've gotta say, after the last few rainy Januaries, it's been fabulous to leave my umbrella at home most days.

After a hit-and-miss few weeks, I'm back on the raw wagon full throttle (how many more mixed metaphors can I include in one sentence?), and feeling good. Amazing the difference. And on that note, there's a fantastic article from Sunday's NY Times magazine by Michael Pollan, smart guy activist from Berkeley (naturally) whose recent book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, topped a number of the Best of '06 lists. It's a long one, but really worth your time, and it hits a lot of the points he makes in his books on a more condensed level. Find it here, and be changed.

Been trying to live a little more in the real world and less in the cyber one, which is also why I've been quiet the last several days. And a huge benefit of that is: mad reading. Have you read any Gabriel Garcia Marquez? Let me just say, I don't know how I ever got through higher ed without discovering his stuff. I picked up Love in the Time of Cholera on recommendation from an old friend, and though the density and beauty of his writing makes it fairly slow going, I've been rapt from the get-go. Seriously - look into his work if you're stumbling around in search of a new muse.

(Don't you love that word, "muse?" It's a noun, it's a verb; magic.)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Random shit I wanted to post that has no feasible connection whatsoever to any definition of "rawness"

Um, yeah ... so I wish I had something interesting to say. But try as I might, my mind is boring as hell these last few days. Is it January? The lack of stimulants? The silent prolonged shudder that is the fallout from the State of the Union address?

I dunno. Here's hoping February brings more hearts and flowers and inspiration and whatnot. But in the meantime:

* Last night I met my doppelganger. Well, kind of. The lady had the exact same name as I do: first and last, down to the spelling and everything. I've always known that my name is relatively generic, as names go, but never have I actually met another of the same moniker. It was a little surreal to stand there and, uh, talk to myself. An impromptu existential moment, shall we say. Reminding you how small you are, how utterly not-unique-little-snowflakes our identities are, in spite of the ways we try to convince ourselves that they are. And, I have to say, oddly comforting, in an invisible Buddhist connected-to-everything kind of way. On the upside, she didn't seem crazy and/or particularly prone to criminal activity, so I figure my name's safe for at least a few minutes from automatic association with loony bins or psychos.

* Is anyone else as freaked out as I am by Gonzalez's recent testimony that the Constitution does not guarantee the right to habeas corpus (i.e., a right to a fair trial)? Do I hear rumblings of the "F" word again (as in, "fascist")? Uh, yeah, that's what I thought.

* Cheney was wearing a purple tie Tuesday night at the SotU. Lavender, to be exact. Shiny lavender. Whoa. (Isn't purple the color of the LGBT movement? Go Dick.)

* The Queen Elizabeth 2, a.k.a Bigass Cruise Ship on a 108-day round the world trip, docked here yesterday at Pier 35. For one brief shining moment, it was kind of exciting, and the local media had a bit of a heyday. That is, until the news broke shortly thereafter that hundreds of passengers on the ship had already been sickened by the norovirus - some 17%, twice what usually get sick when that kind of thing strikes. Ugh. Welcome to SF, sickies. Alas, they sailed off to Honolulu last night. We are due for a number of cruise ships in the next few months, so I'm sure there'll be more where that came from. I'll freely admit, the poker-playing-bad-theater-seeing-buffet-eating cruise ship scene isn't so much my style, but I have to say, the vision of a 108-day trip around the world is totally tempting. Sans the stomach flu part, though, of course.

Disinfect those casino chips, my friends! And adieu.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Raw, adjective: 5. crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste


Everyone's buzzing over the Oscar noms today: who got snubbed, who was rightly included, what the implications of the Academy's choices are for the future of the planet (ref. Zacharek at Salon.com - always good for a strong opinion or seven). And the big snub on everyone's tongue, of course, is the lack of Best Picture OR Best Director nominations for Dreamgirls.

I finally had a chance to see it over the weekend, after hearing generally solid word of mouth. Of course, anyone would have had to be living under a rock to miss all the hoopla over Jennifer Hudson's star-making performance. So, I had high expectations, and generally found them met: Beyonce was solid, after being sort of invisible in the first half, and Hudson was excellent as expected, and I found myself pleasantly surprised by the costuming, the choreography and the music. Not a score or a libretto that I was particularly familiar with before going into it, but adequate, by all means. It reminded me of the recent movie versions of Chicago and Rent, though, in terms of being, well, exactly what you'd expect. And that's both a compliment and a caveat. Very little deviation from the original, whether in terms of plot or aesthetics; but at the same time, very little novelty or originality infused into the whole shebang. It was like eating a good solid Midwestern meal: meat, potatoes, and a green veg on the side; fulfilling, satiating, but ultimately lacking in spice or surprise. (I will say, though - at least this one didn't feature the intolerable Renee Zellweger flailing her arms around in an embarrassingly incompetent attempt at dancing. Holy momma goddess.)

And maybe that predictability is why it wasn't nominated for Best Picture. There are all kinds of theories out there right now - including what seems to be the pretty legitimate accusation that the Academy is not ready for a primarily African-American film to take the top spot - but we'll wait and see how things shake out.

On that musical theater note, there's a new musical version of the Reese Witherspoon movie Legally Blonde opening here in SF (today, actually). It'll run in previews for a month or so and then transfer to B'Way for an April opening. I have to say: ugh. I realize that this is probably a brilliant marketing move in terms of co-opting the teenage girl musical theater audience, but seriously? Can we please get some new material going here? Seems like B'Way lately is all movies-turned-musicals. Cash cows are great, but, really...do they have to involve a little dog the heroine carries around in a purse? (Dorothy notwithstanding). There HAS to be better source material out there somewhere.

Today's Chron had an interview with the actress who'll be playing Elle. It's here if you want to check that out. As for me, it's a solid wager that I'll have to be heavily intoxicated before I roll down to the theater district for this one.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture


"But maybe the last part of the symphony was the music she loved the best - glad and like the greatest people in the world running and springing up in a hard, free way. Wonderful music like this was the worst hurt there could be. The whole world was this symphony, and there was not enough of her to listen."

-- Carson McCullers, "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter"

(Romare Bearden, "The Blues," 1974. Another of my favorites - super postmodern, socially and politically astute, heavily infused with senses of musicality, vibrance, vitality. Check him out.)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Raw, adjective: 4. painfully open, as a sore or wound

I've got Edward Norton on the brain.

Ever since seeing him in The Painted Veil few weeks ago, I can't stop thinking about, well, how GOOD he is. How much I like his body of work. How smart and often provocative his artistic choices are. The fact that he wrote and produced TPV, which is such a fascinating look at a particular moment in Chinese history. (And which, by the way, just won a Golden Globe for Best Score. As I watched, I remember thinking "Damn, this is a great score..." and after picking it up the other day, I was reminded just how gorgeous it is. Definitely check it out if you're looking for some beautiful new piano work - Lang Lang is featured, along with some nice cello action.)

Anyway - point of all this Ed Norton stuff is, between the ubiquitous media coverage and press junkets and whatnot, he keeps popping up in my dreams. As in, say, "Oh, Ed, let's go to the grocery store for some Braeburn apples" or "Ed, remember to put on your helmet before we blast off - and watch out for that six-legged alien to the right!" Yeah. Which ultimately inspired me to pull out my worn copy of Chuck Palahniuk's novel Fight Club, which has for the last five years or so been my regular twice-a-year quickie read - because, yes, it's just that damn good. You've seen the movie, of course - who could forget Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden, edgy and smart and vaguely Buddhist and surreptitiously Taoist and mellow and angry and passionate and virile and anti-consumerist and sculpted and....oh, I'm getting off track. Anyway, obviously, duh, you remember a shirtless and bruised Brad Pitt. And Norton was equally excellent in the film. But the novel is really worth your time, if you're looking for a quick and passionate read.

So searching for inspiration this morning in the midst of all my margin-scribbling, I stumbled upon one of my favorite sections. Some of it you'll recognize from being lifted into the film dialogue, but it's pretty perfect here as it is. So, a little blurb for you in case you're feeling in need of a little fire in your belly this cold and dark January day:

The mechanic starts talking and it's pure Tyler Durden.

"I see the strongest and the smartest men who have ever lived, " he says, his face outlined against the stars in the driver's window, "and these men are pumping gas and waiting tables."

The drop of his forehead, his brow, the slope of his nose, his eyelashes and the curve of his eyes, the plastic profile of his mouth, talking, these are all outlined in black against the stars. ....

"You have a class of young strong men and women, and they want to give their lives to something. Advertising has these people chasing cars and clothes they don't need. Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy what they don't really need.

We don't have a great war in our generation, or a great depression, but we do, we have a great war of the spirit. We have a great revolution against the culture. The great depression is our lives. We have a spiritual depression." (p. 149)

Hit it up! Really fuckin brilliant.

And PS - here's an article from the other day on Norton and TPV from the Chron.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data

So Obama's officially thrown his hat into the ring.

No shocker there - we've all been expecting it, especially in the wake of his pre-campaign PR tour last fall. That is, I mean, his "book tour," complete with cheesy-ass inspirational title and all. "The Audacity of Hope"? I mean, really. Cheesy. But, have to say, I really like the guy. Did you know his father was a goatherd in Kenya? Before going on to earn his doctorate at Harvard, that is. You couldn't have scripted a better back-story for that one. Horatio Alger, bootstraps, blah blah blah.

Slate has a really interesting article on Obama's warm, smooth "maple-syrup" voice - and the fact that his smoking just might be responsible for that. TEXT Now this is the kind of stuff that really piques my interest. You can analyze wonky policy till the end of the time, but at the end of the day, especially in this hyper-media-saturated age and in a culture whose ethic has completely been sculpted by the market mentality, it all comes down to who sells whom most effectively. A game of marketing, PR, image, whose hair, whose voice, whose clothes have the most cache. I remember reading some time ago that Abe Lincoln would never have been elected today, what with his completely unsexy high-pitched voice and aversion to public speaking. Now, with media outlets bombarding us at every turn, you can't get away from that external package.

I'm glad Obama's seriously considering a run; I worry that as smart as Hillary is, and as experienced, she is simply not electable. Her image as a shrill harpy was hardened into steel by the media 15 years ago, and no matter what she does, no matter how many yellow suits she wears, no matter how soft her hair is, no matter how great her kid is or how patiently Bill stands behind her with his hands frustratedly behind his back, that's not going to change. She'd be great, yeah, in spite of her relative move to the center in the last several years. But the Red States simply won't elect her. Billy Bob in Nebraska is not going to vote for her. Period. So I'm grateful that we've got Obama as a viable alternative, someone I'm legitimately excited about for so many reasons.

And that's my completely uninformed two cents on the Democratic front-runner sitch. But Barack, as much as I dig your smoker's voice, you'd probably better lay off on the cigs if you know what's good for you. PR-wise, that is.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air


So, it's January 15th, and the initial rush of New Year's resolutions has passed, and now the key word is: restlessness. Feelin' it. For sure.

It's cold here, been cold for days, is going to stay cold for the foreseeable future. I'm tired of mittens and frozen ears. I'm tired of having to wear socks to bed. I'm tired of only wanting to hibernate inside to avoid the cold.

On the upside, I've been doing a ton of writing and piano playing, and in the last two weeks have doubled the length of one of my manuscripts to over 150 pages of good coherent material, with several notebooks in longhand waiting to be plugged into the skeleton. This is, frankly, thrilling.

At the same time, most of those raw materials are manuscripts that I've pulled out from when I was living abroad, and so they are peppered with references to Dutch canals and Venetian sunsets and Spanish architecture. And I've also got several friends either just coming off of or getting ready to head out to extended South American travels. It's enough to make a woman crazy. So as much as I love my SF, geez, if it isn't hard to sit still right now. I'm ready to hop on the next plane to Buenos Aires and disappear for a good long month or two.

In the meantime:

1) Good thing the Patriots won yesterday, 'cause man, that Tom Brady is hot. He can throw passes my way anytime he wants.

2) Happy MLK Day. The Chron has a good article about how socially progressive and theologically liberal King's Christianity was. You can dig it here: TEXT

3) Props to B for passing this Picasso on to me several years ago. It's since become one of my favorites. Blue Period (duh), "Two Women Seated at a Bar," 1902. Divine.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air

Earthquake!

I was snoozing along happily this morning circa 3:30 when all of a sudden I awoke with a distinct rolling sensation. My first thought in my sleep-addled haze was: "the guys next door are pushing on the wall!!!" Because it really did feel like someone was just pushing on the wall and rolling me along in my big sleigh bed. But then I realized the windows were shaking, too, and after dusting off the last remnants of deep sleep, I knew it was an earthquake instead. So I rode it out, exhaled when it was all over and done with, and rolled over and went back to sleep.

Sure enough, the morning Chron says that there was a 3.8 tremblor centered in Santa Rosa at 3:27 this morning. Now, in these parts 3.8 isn't much of anything; we see those on a fairly regular basis, and they don't mean much other than the usual plate shifting and whatnot. The earth gasping and groaning a bit as she tosses and turns in bed, shall we say. But now and then you'll get a goodie that for one reason or another stops you in your tracks for a moment and reminds you that you're, well, small and utterly powerless against this bigass earthshaking phenomenon.

As a kid growing up in the Great Plains, I knew that feeling well, but in a different guise. Tornado season wreaked havoc on my neurotic little kid's heart. Spot more than two dark clouds in the sky, and I was down in the basement huddled under my father's big heavy desk with a weather radio and rations of peanut butter and Cheez Its for the next week.

I pride myself on being less of a weenie these days, although when the Big One hits, as the People Who Know say will happen beyond a shadow of a doubt sometime in the next 30 years, I will probably not be completely cool and collected. Good thing I've got these little practice quakes to get me used to it. And I'm glad this one wasn't any bigger than 3.8, as it's set to be COLD here all weekend: as in, 28-degree lows through to Monday. That doesn't happen here! So, shattered windows and the like can gladly wait until the cold snap is over. I might as well be in the Midwest!

On another note, did you see that David Beckham is moving to LA to play for the Galaxy?? I'm kind of excited, in spite of myself. Here's a good take on the whole thing from the Chron sports columnist.

And finally, I can't resist highlighting a few choice words from my man Chuck Hagel (R-Neb., who has really shown himself to be an able critic of this administration's Iraq debacle) in his reaction to Condi's plan to send more troops to Iraq:

"It's, first of all, in my opinion, morally wrong. It's tactically, strategically, militarily wrong. We will not win a war of attrition in the Middle East... Madam Secretary, we've been there almost four years, and there's a reason for that skepticism and pessimism, and that is based on the facts on the ground, the reality of the dynamics."

Well-spoken. Full article here.

Enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions



"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars..."

-- Jack Kerouac, "On the Road"

(Mark Rothko, "Yellow Band," 1956)

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained

So how about those Gators?! I love seeing the underdog come out on top. Sorry, Ohio State - looks like that Heisman curse is still alive and kicking. I am sorry to see the college football season end, though. At least we have a few more weeks of pro playoffs to look forward to. (Go Eagles!)

Feeling really fired up this morning after catching a great article on Salon.com about a new book by Chris Hedges, "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America." For several years now I have been relying on theologian Dorothee Soelle's brilliant term "Christofascism" to describe the socio-economic ideological agenda that masquerades as religion right now in America. Most of the time, however, my use of the term is met with cautionary restraint, especially in academic circles where "fascism" conjures up very distinct images of 1930s Hitler and Mussolini. But I love that someone is finally having the balls to use the "F" word in conjunction with this creeping ideological movement spreading its tentacles all over the country. It's hyperbolic, of course, but that hyperbole makes it no less relevant or accurate, and as far as I'm concerned, if it wakes people up to the crap that's being sold as "truth" to millions of people, then it's completely worth it.

Hedges himself admits that his book is angry, to which I say: it's about time, my friends! We need some angry voices out there to counter the bullshit that just continues to mushroom in the conservative "Christian" industrial complex. Definitely doesn't look like a particularly light read, but I really recommend looking into this one if you're at all interested in these issues. Hedges is a pastors' kid - whaddya know?! - and comes from a seminary-educated background. This gives me hope - I love seeing people who come from "the inside" using their pedigreed legitimacy to break this shit down.

You can find the article here: "The Holy Blitz Rolls On" (Might have to watch a quick ad to get access to the whole article). Keep the fire!

Friday, January 5, 2007

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air

Couple of things on this brisk Friday morning...

* Bring on the Dems! And go, Pelosi! Hello, most powerful woman in Congressional history. We're so glad you're here.

* Saw "The Painted Veil" last night. It was, well, pretty damn gorgeous. Loved the period setting (1925 Shanghai), the Gatsby-esque costuming, the sweepingly lush landscapes. And Ed Norton and Naomi Watts were excellent. Definitely worth a see if you're in the mood for an old-school epic. It pretty much made my heart hurt. Oh yeah, and there's opium, too. Here's a link to an "All Things Considered" interview with Ed Norton on NPR. He's such a thinker.

* Great exhibition at the SF MoMA right now that's nearing its end - Anselm Kiefer, "Heaven and Earth" - running through the 21st. The site highlights his "career-long meditation on the relationship between heaven and earth, God and politics." Swing by if you get time. It's January; it's not like you have anything better to do!

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.


I know, I know: you're thinking, seriously, Rach - what the hell is this whole weird "raw food" thing anyway? After enough people asked me that, I figured I'd sit down and write a little blurb about what exactly "raw" means. (And thought if I threw in a random half-naked pic, you might actually read it. Whoohoo for implied nudity.)

Usually when people ask, their eyes get a little glassy, their tones a bit mystified. I know that it probably sounds a) freakish, b) very fringe, or c) like just another wanky hippie granola California thing. So, if you're at all interested in knowing what I'm talking about when I say "raw," read on. If the whole thing bores you, well, then, go eat a cheesesteak, and we'll call it good.

What follows is a melange of a lot of the reading I've done over the last several years, so you'll find various influences here. I don't pretend to be a scientist, so I'll phrase it in lay(wo)man's terms and assume that if you want more detailed background info and/or specific studies to which I refer, you'll just ask me. I'm always game to answer questions. And I'm still very much learning, myself, too.

YOU'RE A KID FROM THE LAND OF BEEF. WTF?

I've always been interested in the politics of food, not only in terms of ethics and grand global schemes, but also in terms of more microcosmic levels of interpersonal relations and how food plays a role in them. So for several years now I've been buried in research on holistic nutrition, anti-establishment healing and just general hippie-granola wanky vegetarian shit. Being in San Francisco has, of course, been a boon to that, and such a blessing on many levels, in that the Bay Area is such a progressive place in terms of organic and regional produce, healthy lifestyles and just a general foodie mentality. But at some point, I really began to see the various elements of that theoretical work coming together in the form of what we put into our bodies, and why, and how that affects our daily lives (and the future).

I was first introduced to the "raw food" lifestyle when I was living in the UK and doing a lot of reading in my downtime, sans laptop, sans cell phone. Then, when I moved to Southern Spain and was living at a sustainable community there, one of its primary emphases was raw food and the ways in which a raw diet can potentially assuage all kinds of environmental, economic, political and physical problems. The whole thing was still fairly new to me at that point, but I was hooked, and after returning to the States to be with my father during his battle with cancer, I obviously had a new impetus for researching this stuff further. So I read everything out there in the hopes of easing Dad's pain, and learning what I could do to avoid being in the same situation myself thirty years down the road.

Long story short - after so much research and simultaneously witnessing remarkable changes in my own body and mind after several years of living this way myself, I'm sold on this shit - and as an environmentalist, a theologian, a yogi, a social progressive and just someone who'd like to be around someday to meet my grandchildren, I really can't imagine finding a more ideal solution to so many of the current micro- and macro- problems we're having on a global level. Obesity, poverty, resource depletion, Big Pharma, Big Food, consumerism, the sexual, race and class politics of meat and of food consumption...all of it seems set to do battle with this radical (or not so radical, when you really look at it) new approach to eating and to nourishing ourselves and one another.

SO WHAT DOES 'RAW' MEAN, ANYWAY?

There are two perspectives on the definition of "raw" food. First, the scientific one: when food is cooked above 118 degrees, all of the digestive enzymes and 85% of the vitamins in it are destroyed. So, basically, instead of getting the energy your body needs to metabolize your dinner in the food you eat, your pancreas has to produce all the necessary enzymes itself. As a result, it spends all its time and energy creating enzymes to digest your food, and thus has no additional enzymes to perform all the functions your body needs to heal and metabolize - everything from replenishing your skin cells, to healing your injuries, to growing your fingernails, to cleansing out your cells. When you eat food that hasn't been cooked over 118 degrees (a.k.a. "raw"), all the enzymes your body needs to digest your food are present in the meal itself, which frees up your pancreas to use all the enzymes it creates to maintain, heal and keep your body running like a well-oiled machine. Simply put, that means your body spends less energy digesting its food and more energy repairing itself. As a result, you're in better shape, and you feel more energized, to boot.

Second, the more spiritual definition: the vast majority of the major world religions have a word that describes the energy (or "life force") of a living being: prana, qi, chi, spirit, mana, etc. Basically, and I'm speaking from a Buddhist yogic perspective here, cooking food destroys its prana. The life energy that was in that broccoli is depleted, and as a result, its vibrations are no longer there to sustain you. If you consume "living" foods, they still retain the prana or life energy that they inherently possess. Follow one perspective or the other, or a combination of both, as I do, but ultimately, that's what it means when I say a food is "raw."

OK. SOUNDS A LITTLE WANKY TO ME, BUT I'LL KEEP READING. WHY DO IT?

For soooo many reasons. Like I wrote before, all of the many threads of what it means to me to live consciously, to choose my actions mindfully, and to subvert the dominant consumeristic paradigm come together in this way of life. How, you say?

* It's environmentally sound. Eating whole foods means you create very little waste. You leave a smaller ecological footprint. You don't use plastic or styrofoam containers. You don't leave charcoal remnants or microwaveable packaging behind. You create less trash. You tread lightly upon the earth.

* You can grow your own food (whoohoo for gardening!) or eat locally, relying on fresh regional produce and local farmers instead of vast multinational corporations that care more about the bottom line than they do about the nutritional content of their food. Goodbye, Kraft! Goodbye, Big Food! Hello, fresh strawberries from your garden, homemade veggie juice, and eating according to the seasons. A much more sustainable and real option, as opposed to eating something that was dehydrated and packaged in a factory in Mexico, sat in a storage facility for a few months and finally made it in a box to the shelves of your local WalMart.

* It's physiologically ideal. Hundreds of studies out there have shown that a vegetarian diet is the most healthful, and that a vegan diet can in fact turn around heart disease and cancer. Our bodies are not meant to eat meat like other mammals'. We have long intestines where meat putrifies and ferments, leading to toxicity and cancer. Our genetic makeup leaves us suited for the old-school nuts and berries - whole foods! - of hunter-gatherer days. Our bodies are simply not able to digest all the processed crap that passes for food now. All the plastic-wrapped snack cakes and processed microwave dinners are, in essence, plastic. Our bodies can't deal with that shit. It sits in our colons and festers. Whole-body health begins in our colons. When they are covered with the paste-like glue from white flour and sugar, and rankled with rotting meat that our bodies take eons to digest, they can't absorb nutrients through the walls of the intestines. Some raw foodists eat raw meat and dairy; after all I've read about the dangers and politics of meat and dairy, I'm not up for that, but if you are interested and can't give it up, it's always an option, I suppose.

* We live in a society where we're killing ourselves slowly with what we eat. The diseases that are growing endemic now - diabetes, heart disease, cancer - are borne of our own affluence. We are, in essence, eating ourselves to death. The obesity epidemic gets constant press coverage, and it's only getting worse, as we see in our young children. The bovine growth hormones in dairy products mean that kids go through puberty younger and younger. The steroids in meat cause hairy lips on women and infertility in men. Many people, subsisting on white flour and sugar, are overweight and yet ironically malnourished. We have the power to choose to eat well, to nourish ourselves, to put things into our bodies now that won't toxify and rot our insides; we also have the power to ignore all that and wonder why we get sick down the road. Why NOT nourish yourself well? It makes so much sense, especially when we have the opportunity and means to do so. And that means getting the most nutrients and enzymes we possibly can. And that's through eating the raw fruits, veggies, and nuts that can sustain good health or nourishment.

* As a woman, I am so sick of being surrounded by other women who are obsessed with their weight. Dieting is ubiquitous. Surround yourself with middle-aged women and you'll find 100% of them hate their bodies, want to lose weight, and feel guilty every time they eat something. I am, quite simply, not willing to spend my life doing that. All of my studies in social theory and feminist theory have taught me that what we put into our bodies, how we eat, whether we allow ourselves to satisfy our appetites, is highly political, and as a feminist and just a person who wants to do a hell of a lot in her life, I refuse to waste that kind of energy over whether I eat dessert or not! Eating raw means that I am healthy and nourished and that I never deny myself food when I am hungry, because everything you eat is so goddamned GOOD for you! I feel radical and defiant eating so well, and eating so much - because you really do eat so much when you are eating this way, a bowl of spinach here, a whole cantaloupe there, six apples a day, or whatever.

* You don't kill anything or create any more suffering than you need to. Eastern religions like Buddhism, with its notion of ahimsa (non-suffering) and also Hinduism's influences on yogic theory have led to a strong connection between yoga and vegetarianism. So raw foods are just a good extension of that. I don't want anything to die so that I can eat it, especially if it's just going to give me high cholesterol and colon cancer anyway. That's so selfish! We are connected to all these beings in the circle of life. And the chickens on poultry farms live in conditions of miserable sorrow, on top of each other, sick, beakless, never even seeing the outside world. And the cows that produce our milk for ice cream and cheese undergo awful doses of antibiotics, painfully swollen udders, and ultimately a violent death at the hands of slaughterhouses. Yogis believe that when we consume the products of these suffering and dying animals, we consume their suffering and fear, and experience that heaviness and sorrow as a result. If I have the luxury of choosing not to eat those products of suffering, I am most certainly going to do so.

WHAT EFFECTS HAVE YOU SEEN FROM THIS IN YOUR LIFE?

* My eyes sparkle. My skin glows totally radiantly, even after just a day of eating well. My cheeks are rosy. I have a thousand times more energy. Three or four days into a good raw stretch, I hardly need any sleep; maybe 5 or 6 hours a night, max. I want to get up in the morning; I wake up before my alarm. I'm super-hydrated and my skin is no longer dry, even on my hands. My nails are stronger than they've ever been.

* My yoga practice is enhanced, four-fold. Since fruits and veggies are so water-rich, being so well-hydrated means that my joints and muscles are incredibly flexible again. Thirteen years after high school dance team, I still have all my splits! Love it. As soon as I eat a lot of cheese, sugar or wheat, I can feel that familiar ache in my joints and my muscles, the tightness and the difficulty stretching that wasn't there before. It's a very clear connection. When I'm very raw, my running is amazing, too; I can run longer, feel lighter, and run faster than when I'm eating a lot of heavier grains and breads, dairy, sugar, etc. There's a remarkable causal relationship.

* Emotionally, I feel light and clear, lucid and peaceful. I've always been a bit prone to melancholy, but when I eat this way, I feel such clarity, such levity, so calm-minded and at peace. Gone are the mood swings that used to come with the rush and subsequent crash of high-glycemic foods like sugar and cooked white potatoes/flours/etc. I'm glad to get up in the morning; I feel patient and optimistic. The emotional payoff from knowing you are taking such good care of your body is pretty amazing, too, and it's all about the momentum; after you see such clear and immediate results, you just want to keep it going.

* I never have to buy new clothes, which, given my anti-consumer sentiments, totally rocks. Most of my duds are the same ones that I bought some eight, ten years ago in college. I love the fact that I can live so simply and not have to constantly be pumping more money into the consumer economy because the old clothes don't fit. One of my favorite lines from the John Cusack movie Grosse Pointe Blank was when Joan Cusack described her high school reunion, something along the lines of: "Everyone was the same, it was just like they'd all swollen." We can defy that cultural mandate to grow increasingly unhealthy as the years go by.

* When I injure myself, say, with a bruise here or a twisted ankle there, it heals so quickly, because my body has so many enzymes and nutrients to take care of itself. My muscles are stronger and more defined than ever, and I get tons of protein from all the nuts and legumes, as well as calcium and iron from all the green veggies I eat.

BUT ISN'T IT HARD SOMETIMES?

Sure it is. Socially it can be hard now and then, especially the times when there aren't really any good foods around, or I'm traveling, or away from home. And those are the times you just do what you can with what you've got and trust that you'll get back at it when you're able to. I still drink coffee; I love the warmth and the comfort of it too much yet to give that up. As for alcohol, wine is actually officially "raw" because it's not heated past 118 degrees, so that's fair game, and in terms of liquor, I usually try to stick to vodka or gin, since it's a bit lighter. I'm not totally hard and fast about it. If someone makes me a cake for my birthday, I'll have a piece. I realize it's a luxury, an elite privilege, in many ways, to be able to choose this way of life, and I understand that not everyone can do so, so I'm not going to push it on anyone. But, by and large, I do what I can to keep it up. The rewards are so quick and so remarkable, I can't help but want to continue with it.

On a more theoretical level, it's exciting to see a lot of ostensibly macrocosmic social theory coming together in this very tangible realm of food and consumption. You can see so many threads of "nourishment" cohering here: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, sexual, environmental, etc. And that feels inherently deviant in a culture that is so full of "empty calories," a.k.a. superficial bullshit that masquerades as deep or true or life-giving.

A great book to look into if you're at all interested in the politics of food is The Sexual Politics of Meat, by Carol J. Adams. It's a real barnstormer in the study of the sex, race and class dimensions of eating and who gets to eat what. We see this today in the connections between poverty, diabetes and obesity...and in so much more. Check it out.

If you want other resources, let me know; I've got some great stuff that's worth a look and will do a much better job than I ever can. From a more yogic perspective, Steve Ross's book, Happy Yoga, has a great, easy-to-read chapter on raw foods that really draws sharp connections between scientific, religious, and physical reasons for living this way (and it's funny, too). Despite the wanky name, it's a smart, sweet book and definitely worth a look. Several of my friends have watched their lives open up and change for the better because of reading his work.

If you're interested, try it out for a day, or even a morning. A typical day for me is a whole cantaloupe in the morning, with coffee; a big (and I mean mammoth) salad for lunch, with lots of spinach, mixed greens, artichoke hearts, beets, kale, carrots, broc and caul, tomatoes, etc., a few apples scattered in there for snacks, dried cranberries or raisins, a lot of almonds and walnuts, a couple of Lara Bars, and a Kombucha (Chinese tea, also raw and organic). As you can imagine, I'm constantly eating. It rocks. And after awhile, that flour cake just starts to look (and taste) like plastic to you. When you get used to being so well-nourished, you just want to keep it up.

So, that's my little raw foods primer. Now, go eat a head of celery! Or something. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Raw, adjective: 10. not diluted, as alcoholic spirits: raw whiskey

Remember that annoying book that was hot ten years ago or so, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?" Yeah. Well, I won't go so far to say that it's all I *really* need to know - I could probably use a little more physics and, oh, some human anatomy, along with some sharper music theory skillz - but I did indeed learn quite a few things over the New Year's weekend that, well, have me realizing that even the most seemingly blase times can be unintentionally instructive. So, here's a little "All I Need to Know I Learned Over New Year's..."

* WaWa is the most underappreciated national treasure of the Eastern Seaboard. That flavored non-dairy French Vanilla creamer! The 72 different pots of coffee you can choose from! The pre-packaged melon and celery sticks! The fabulous donut selection! I'm in love. And he lives on the East Coast, and his name is "Wawa." Why, oh why, won't you come to the West Coast, my darling?

* Jersey accents are still fucking ugly. My ears hurt.

* The Whole Foods in Princeton, NJ brings "deliciousness" up to a new and unmatched level. The free samples. The vast hangar-like space echoing with the clack of flip-flops and high heels. The bookish academic crowd. The little kid at the counter who asked, "Is that organic non-fat milk?" Do you laugh or cry at that point? Your call. (Although, for the record, the hippie boy content, albeit surprisingly good for suburban New Jersey, was still trumped by the lush pickings of my local SF store.)

* Don't venture anywhere near Rockefeller Center and the tree and the skating rink and shit anytime between Dec. 1st and Jan. 3rd. Just don't do it. Especially if you don't want to be accosted by annoying tourists walking sloooowly and sporting fanny packs and loud Southern accents.

* There is nothing like yoga on the beach looking at the young sun just up over the horizon and feeling the cold, cold winter wind whistling past your frozen ears. I snuck out Sunday morning and busted out some warrior and tree poses to open up the old bod after a few days of traveling and vodka, and in spite of the cold, the brilliant December sun slipping in and out of the clouds on Rehoboth Beach took my breath away. As much as I like Rehoboth during the summertime, there's something about the quiet and the chill and the winter wind in the dunes that just makes me feel alive. Combine that with a little hungover yoga and wham! happy new year to that.

* If you don't eat cheese for like two months, and then suddenly you live on cheese for three days, your body might freak out, just a little bit. Or a lot. The weekend was kind of a little freebie for me; you know, let up a little on the trying so hard to be healthy, and just enjoy the local cuisines, i.e. rip into that badass Nicoboli for all it's worth. And whoa, mama, delish. But, wow, that was a fun flight home. Bring on the ginger and the fennel! Let the detox begin.

* You can never have too many Kate's nachos. Right, Sarah? 'Nuff said.

* They closed the schools in Delaware for the Gerald Ford funeral. Is it just me or is that slightly bizarre? I've never seen that done before, in any of the many states I went to school in as a kid. Strange. Speaking of the funeral: anyone with a heart had to've felt it twinge a little on seeing fragile little Betty Ford kneel, alone, at that coffin. Fifty-nine years of marriage; fifty-nine years of that warm body on the other side of the bed, and then, suddenly, there is only empty space. I cannot imagine the void. Your heart has to go out to her.

* On that note, it's always at once a little heartening and bizarre to see all of the past Presidents and their wives gathered in those first few pews for the service, political divisions aside. Bush Daddy and Babs are looking older, aren't they. Jimmy and Rosalyn are hanging in, too. But who was the random lady between Barbara and Bill Clinton? I couldn't place her.

* Parodies of Christian boy bands + being a pastor's kid = funniest thing I've seen, like, ever. Ever. So we finally got to hit up NYC and see Shaun's amazing! brilliant! hilarious! off-Broadway show, Altar Boyz. And if you haven't seen it yet, you really just need to drop everything and haul ass up there to catch this. I can't even get started. The dancing was tight (soooo well-choreographed), the harmonies tighter (so musically-sound, if you could catch your breath enough from the laughing to hear the chords), and the pants even tighter (Shaun & Co. = little hotties! Decked out in the ultimate boy-band gear). Really - I couldn't recommend it more highly. Check out the link over on the right for more music and info on buying tickets. I noticed in the program that the guy who wrote it is the son of a Peruvian minister and a church organist. Ha! Sounds strangely familiar...now, if only I can milk my matching pedigree into something so brilliant. Just rich.

* Babies are fun. Duh. But, really. My little boy Chucky, beautiful spawn of my two dear friends Matt and Sarah, provided constant entertainment for his Aunt Rach this weekend. I didn't know I could love a little gurgling spitting pooping laughing thing so much. But then he rolls up in his little Delaware outfit and my heart goes to mush. I could sit and sing "You Are My Sunshine" to that little guy till the end of time. (Sidenote: we are officially grown-ups when there's a small child at the New Year's extravaganza.)

* Sometimes it's enough to just be with people...to just be in the same house, to just breathe the same air and watch the same stupid bowl game (sigh, Huskers, get it together!) and drink beer at noon on the back porch. Dabbling in Buddhism over the last few years has done so much to open my eyes to that, this whole idea that what we really need and what's enough to make us happy are just so simple, so easy, as being in the same room with people, and I'll be damned if that isn't just so true. Just breathing the same air. Remembering you have shit in common, shared memories and shared outrage over the destruction of the Balloon to make room for overpriced condos. Amazing.

Time to go drink some water. That's my primary project today: rehydrating from the weekend of alcohol and cheese. I will say, though; I was jotting down a few thoughts on the plane last night, and realized how much I'm looking forward to this new year, this fresh month sans the distractions of holiday parties and the like, to really gear up again and dive into my writing and my yoga and the projects I've got running right now. As much as January can sometimes feel like the echoing post-holiday void, I think it just might be rich with some productivity. My resolution this year is to write enough that I have a finished book-length manuscript by my birthday in February...which I think is actually pretty realistic. I don't know what your resolutions are, but I've kind of quietly committed to having a book deal by the end of the year...which seems totally possible. And by actually saying that out loud, it makes it much more real. And scary.

So, there you go. Hope your New Years hangovers have officially subsided and you're enjoying the energy of a fresh start. And, the next time any of you drive by a Wawa, please ogle it longingly on my behalf.