Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Raw, adjective: 8. brutally harsh or unfair: a raw deal

And somehow, it's almost December.

Spent the last several days buried in research, poking my head up now and then for a bowl of ravioli (decidedly NOT raw) or an unexpected phone call. I've got a shadowy little office tucked into the back end of our place, just off the balcony that leads to the fire escape, and if I swing the door open to let some fresh air in and curl up at my desk and block out the giggling of the sorority girls upstairs I can lose a good several hours. It's darker back there, heavier, somehow; I've got another desk that sits in the front bay window overlooking the street, sunlit but shaded by the one big tree on my block (all mine, thankyouverymuch), but when I actually get settled in there to write, it's useless; the people passing underneath and the conversations wafting up and the lights of the traffic whizzing by eliminate any hope of productivity.

And it's productivity I've been after. Stumbled into Simone Weil (thanks, Annie Dillard) and have found in her this eccentric brilliant fascinating creature of a woman. Early 20th c. French philosopher, mystic, anarchist, pacifist, Marxist, radical, respected philospher idolized by Camus, among others - and all before dying at the age of 34, of self-induced starvation, in England. WTF. The more I read of her stuff, the more confused I get about this complicated and introverted ascetic child of well-to-do Jewish agnostics who fell into St Francis of Assisi and fought in the Spanish Civil War and what have you.

Her key themes? Suffering, absence, affliction, the spirituality of work (see why Marx fits in?). Detachment, class activism, beauty as soteriological (!!!). Stillness and soulfulness and the notion of uprootedness. You get my drift. Totally intriguing. And yet - all before 34 y.o.

The age thing is what's getting me most. It's been a rather "yin" last few weeks, you see; a lot of sorrow and death and silence and drawing in, reflection, as tends to suit this time of year anyway, with its cold evenings and crisp mornings sans fog. Lost an old friend, a dear friend, aged 29, to a ravaging and wholly unexpected brain tumor, and it has shaken me; Dave and I went to college together, he was my fellow sociology dork, the only person I knew who'd stay up till 2 am talking about dead German philosophers, and he and I had kept in touch across the years and across the miles as we both went our various ways. He's gone now, two months after a diagnosis; won't see his thirtieth birthday, won't see his first wedding anniversary with his young wife, now a widow. I found a few old emails from him from 2003, full of hope and passion and anger and wrestling with the questions of what to do with his life; and in that moment, he had three years left, didn't know it, but only three birthdays, three Januaries, three springs turning into summers.

So Dave's gone, and Simone Weil lost it at 34, and it's late autumn and the leaves are turning and my father's would-be birthday came and went last week, and here we are carving turkeys and hanging holiday decorations and watching the seasons turn once again without any kind of awareness of how wild and ridiculous and obscenely gorgeous it is to have the chance to see one more Christmas, to have the ability to plan for one more New Year's at the beach, and Buddhism reminds us to step back, take a deep breath, inhale, smell the pine in the air, feel the twilight fog on our cheeks, and stop craving, stop wanting, stop wishing to be somewhere else with someone else doing anything else but exactly what and where and who we are right now. To let it be enough, just for today, just for this moment.

Because it has to be.


"Pain is the root of knowledge." - Weil

Saturday, November 24, 2007

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

Yesterday was Buy Nothing Day. Did you spend it standing in line at a cash register with your arms full of shit you don't need alongside other people trying to fill up their empty souls with electronic gadgets and expensive jeans?? Um, I mean, happy Black Friday.

The Chron had a little alternative piece on it, alongside the annual round-up of shoppers rolling up to Wal-Marts at 4 am. Check it for a decent overview of the whole anti-consumerism movement, along with a mention of the Reverend Billy movie that came out yesterday, as well.

"Not All Buy Into Black Friday" (SF Chron)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

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

In this long-overdue edition of the ongoing feature, "Cool Hippie Shit That You Really Should Know About," I give you:


Or, as my friend Llama calls it, "the booch." Whatever way you put it, you should check this shit out. It's right up there with Lara Bars at the top of the convenient-raw-food pyramid.

No need for a huge nutritional synopsis here, as you'll find that in much more detailed form at this site: www. GT produces Synergy, which is probably the most popular form of bottled kombucha out there right now. Basically, it's a Chinese tea (fermented for 30 days) that people have been drinking since way back in the day; it's vaguely bubbly due to the fermentation, and full of live enzymes, probiotics, amino acids, etc., as well as unpasteurized and lightly processed (read: RAW). Everything you need to balance out the body and alkalinize and take care of your immune system and metabolism and digestion and all that good stuff. Also, this guy GT (along with various others) claims that drinking kombucha helped his mother fight breast cancer. Which is what initially caught my eye when I started drinking this stuff about 3 years ago on recommendation from a fellow granola friend (thanks, Erin). I found an immediate difference in my energy levels and my skin, and attribute part of the fact that I rarely get sick to the mad live yeast and shit swimming around in my daily 'booch.

Anyway, check it out as part of the continuing project to live well in that ol' bod of yers. Kombucha is quickly spreading from a fixture in the hippie-yoga community to a regular sight in convenience stores and on the street, at least here in SF. It's pricey (usually anywhere from $2.50-$4 a bottle), and an alternative is growing your own cultures from a kombucha patty, which I have not yet tried, but which is definitely on the agenda. Guava Goddess and Strawberry Serenity are my favorite flavors (I know, wankity-wank names, sorry). Suspend disbelief and drink this shit. You'll have more energy, better skin, and get a few amino acids in the process.


GT's Kombucha Product Info

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

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

I've been reading the obits for Norman Mailer this morning, and first of all: what a badass. A fiery tumultuous unpredictable complex difficult mix of a man. And feeling the need for more people like him - rather, more writers like him - who are controversial and messy and not easy to toss into categories. So much of the pop media coverage right now, book-wise, seems to be all Dan Brown and Oprah's Book Club and blah blah blah soft safe cozy writers, and man, does Mailer's death remind me of the need for outrageous shit to shake up the publishing world.

I sometimes feel like it's all been said and done; for instance, I wish upon wishing that it were 1973 and Erica Jong hadn't yet published Fear of Flying, because dee-amn, would I like to have written that one first. But it's there and it's been there for thirty some years and yet, there are books like that that, on reading, one would think the whole world breathed differently after their emergence, and yet, few people, really, are changed at all...

Thinking a lot about books lately, writing, what's the point of it all, really, and wow, this tranquil haven that is reading in a world that is so consistently screaming NOISE NOISE NOISE white noise mental pollution constant chaos. And what a refuge they are proving to be; what a refuge they were to me as a kid (hello, Laura Ingalls Wilder), what a companion they have been in my life, especially at moments when I've been thousands of miles from any human companions, and what a friend, a dear dear friend, they continue to be. And I'm sorry, iPods and DVDs and blah blah blah are all great, but they're not the same, they're not the same withered copy carried in a bag ten years ago that opens itself up to you with scribbling in the margins and a crumpled receipt from some store in Venice for a bookmark and dog-eared pages that you meant to return to and didn't.

And that is the love song to books that was lilting though my head this morning as I sat here watching the sun come up through the fog listening to the parking meter collector empty the quarters into his little wheelie machine at 6 am.

NYT Mailer Obit

Friday, November 9, 2007

Raw, noun: 13. unrefined sugar, oil, etc.

Can you smell the oil?

58,000 gallons of oil spilled into the bay when a boat hit a part of the Bay Bridge in a thick fog Wednesday morning, and we are just now finally realizing the extent of the damage. The local media's abuzz because of the bizarre 12-hour delay on reporting any of the damage and what appears to have been a seriously lackluster attempt to clean things up.

My friend Nielsen is supposed to swim in this shit tomorrow in the Treasure Island Triathlon. Doubt that's gonna happen, given the widespread oil slicks from the Marin Headlands to Ocean Beach and surrounding Alcatraz. Flashbacks to being a kid and seeing all those oil-covered birds following the Exxon Valdez spill, which was apparently 200 times larger than this one, according to an article I read last night.

Weirdness in the Bay Area. How long will it take till the beaches look normal again??

"Spill closes bay beaches as oil spreads, kills wildlife" (SFGate)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

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

O, sweet obsession of my youth!

Jonathan Yardley of the WaPo has a great little article today about LHOTP as part of "an occasional series in which The Post's book critic reconsiders notable and/or neglected books from the past." Man oh man, the memories. From like age 6 to 10, I lived and breathed this shit. Almanzo and prairie fires and bonnets and haystacks, oh my.

What did Laura teach me? To wear brown dresses with red hair ribbons (blonde sis Mary should wear blue). To wander around in the South Dakota sunshine with just a little dog and the big sky. To be a badass serious hardscrabble little chick who wasn't afraid to dig in the dirt and get her hands dirty. To stick up for the little guys (remember what a little fireball she was?). To be mindful and serious and directed and not to fawn pathetically over dudes but instead to pick the ones with the good horses who let you drive the wild ones with the buggy top down. And to teach, and write, and live equally in the body and the mind and the natural environment around you, all at once.

A pretty cool chick, that Laura, for this six-year-old prairie child.

"Laura Ingalls Wilder's Well-Insulated 'Little House'"

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

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

Is it just me, or did the consumer onslaught start even earlier this year? I walked into Walgreens on Halloween morning to find all the orange and black candy cleared out and replaced by red and green bells and stars and trees. On October 31st. Unbelievable.

As many of you know, my favorite time of year is upon us: Buy Nothing Day, along with the rest of the wild subversive energy spinning around out there in response to the ever-accelerating rush toward Christmas. Anyway, I'll be blasting you with various BND propaganda over the course of the next few weeks, but here's a little taste to begin with: The Reverend Billy and Church of Stop Shopping. ( This shit is great. It totally appropriates the zeal of fundamentalism and queers it into a commentary on the consumer-worship that has overtaken the West. AND, it's funny. AND, it involves music, badass music, and lots of it.

The guy behind Rev Billy & Co. is apparently an actor and activist based in NYC. I know they've been here in SF quite a bit - recall seeing their big bus tooting around town - and I'm excited to say that one of their newest projects, a film called "What Would Jesus Buy?," opens here in SF at an independent theater around the corner on November 23rd (incidentally, Buy Nothing Day itself). CAN'T WAIT! The film "follows Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir as they go on a cross-country mission to save Christmas from the Shopocalypse."

I love it when people use the evangelicals' lingo to spin it and throw it right back at them, questioning the ways that many people's chosen tunnel vision contradicts their supposed faith tenets. The film's produced by Morgan Spurlock (of Super Size Me fame), and promises to be a winner. And it looks like it should have a decent run at theaters across the country, too.

Here's the website for more on the movie. GO! I'm drooling.

"What Would Jesus Buy?" movie

Monday, November 5, 2007

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

I've always had a weakness for Robert Redford (even in that disastrous 1970s Gatsby film adaptation with a simpering Mia Farrow), but now I am officially enraptured.

Redford's "Lions for Lambs" had a big press junket in the City last week, followed by a viewing in Berkeley at the Shattuck Theaters that night. The Sunday Chron had a sharp piece on the film itself, which sounds like a smart political turn in the vein of some of Redford's past social commentary work. The article expounds on all the other reasons he is the dreamiest 71-year-old around, including (but not limited to) his political activism, his "boyishly gorgeous" good looks (have you SEEN his early work? *swoon*), his groundbreaking support of independent media and the arts via the Sundance foundation, his status as a consummate Westerner, and his rumpled professorial demeanor.

I challenge you not to find yourself sighing with amor.

"Robert Redford's 'Lions For Lambs' Takes on Iraq War" (SF Chron)