Friday, October 31, 2008

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


You were probably too busy yesterday putting together your Slutty Sarah Palin costume to read the Times, which is why you might have missed this little piece on Ugly.  I dig it.

Not just because it's Halloween and that means your friends and mine will all be cavorting in the streets wearing fishnets and Wonderbras and some combination of sexy sailor-pirate-nurse-French maid costumes.  But because it's about time someone spoke about the other side of Beauty - the green-faced, character-rich, Dr. Frankenstein flipside to that beautiful blonde sexy flight attendant you'll be chatting up in the corner after your fifth tequila tonight.  Ugly is so endlessly more interesting.

Read it for a little on the sociology of ugliness, a touch of philosophy and a hit of art history.  You'll feel a little smarter before obliterating your brains with fizzy candy and beer in a few short hours.

And then zip on over to Joel Stein's classic LA Times column from last year, celebrating Slutoween ("It makes sense that once a year I get to peek into your psyche and find out whether you think of yourself as a whore nurse, a whore pirate, a whore angel or a whore whore"), and proposing a nationwide Slut Day in order to corral all this tall-booted, tight-bodiced energy.  Love it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

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


Not only is this election huge in terms of the Presidential race, but for California voters, it's important for another reason; there's a proposition being weighed here that would deny the right to marriage between anyone other than a man and a woman.  Basically, Prop 8 would amend the state constitution to deny civil rights, institutionalizing discrimination.  Pretty messed up.

I may feel ambivalent about some of the more institutionalized aspects of marriage-as-social-contract, but I certainly believe anyone and everyone should be allowed to jump into the wedding planning biz if they want to.  I mean, who's to deny anyone else from registering for some sweet-ass china at Williams Sonoma??  Not to mention the right to sit at a dying beloved's bedside.  Especially on the basis of some homophobic religious right propaganda.

The No on Prop 8 team, backed vocally by Gavin Newsom, has some stellar ads out to counter the vote.  Several of them are genuinely funny plays on the familiar Mac vs. PC commercials.  I'm including one below.  I know many of you aren't CA voters, but if you are, be sure to spread the word to vote no against Prop 8.  So not cool.



www.noonprop8.com

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

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


It's been about a decade since I've paid any close attention to Nebraska politics.  There's just so much, uh, RED there, especially since Bob Kerrey traded the Senate for the New School.  I'd rather not get my blood boiling reading all the Religious Right-fueled Republican crap going down.  There's a reason I live in a Blue State now.

But the New Yorker's got a thoughtful piece on Chuck Hagel right now that made me rethink the retiring Senator from Omaha.  We've heard increasing national buzz about Hagel as his role as a vocal critic of the Iraq War has escalated over the last few years, especially right around VP selection time, but I wasn't familiar with his close friendship with John McCain (and consequently dramatic refusal to endorse him) or his surprisingly pragmatic views on a few swing issues (read: abortion).

Granted, the guy voted with Bush some 95% of the time, and he's as anti-choice as they come, but after reading this (longish) piece, I've gained a good deal of grudging respect for him.  Maybe those rumblings about an Obama administration Cabinet position aren't so far off.  I'll be curious to see what Hagel's next steps are after his term ends.  

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


I've got such an old lady girl crush on Joan Didion.  She's 74 now and still so fiercely her own.

Shambhala Sun interviewed Didion last year shortly after The Year of Magical Thinking (her memoir of the loss of her husband and daughter) came out.  The piece hits on that triad of Buddhist themes: impermanence, nonself, and suffering, arguing that Didion "learned in her bones the basic truths we so often deny—death, impermanence, and aloneness."

I know I've mentioned Magical Thinking before, and Didion's long and impressive career encompasses so much more than just that book.  David Swick profiles a woman whose "sharp textual analysis" and "spartan perspective," rooted in geology and Episcopalianism, speak to meaninglessness and emptiness, control and letting go, our cultural denial of death and grief's widespread invisibility.

Worth a read, for another glimpse at this serious and smart California-bred writer.

The Zen of Joan Didion (Shambhala Sun)

Monday, October 27, 2008

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


Running a close second to my Election '08 obsession right now: flapper chic. 

I can't get enough of red lips and cloche hats and drop-waists and multi-strings of pearls.  I'm pulling out all my t-strap heels from the back of my closet, long ignored due to San Francisco hills.  I'm studying Catherine Zeta-Jones in "Chicago" like it's my job.  And I'm wearing red lipstick to do the laundry.

Sartorially, I've always been partial to the 20's, but it feels especially apropos of late what with the economic meltdown and ominous references to the Great Depression.  And while it's always seemed bizarre to me to spend $500 on a handbag that lacks the personality of one you'd find for $5 at the vintage thrift store around the corner, that kind of spending seems downright silly now that the economy's officially in the shitter.

Besides, I've always rather agreed with fashion designer Barbara Hulanicki, who said: "I love old things. Modern things are so cold. I need things that have lived."

Amen to that.  There's a certain pleasure in fashion nonconformity, whatever that means; I suppose the fashionably-unfashionable pieces coming out of American Apparel or Urban or H&M claim nonconformity, which most of us would deem laughable, but I think at this point, any discussion of nonconformity becomes pretty circular and misses the point.  Who gives a shit what you're wearing, or from where.  Just make it yours.  Own it.  That's enough.

Which is partially why I found myself nodding  so enthusiastically when I read this article in the NYT yesterday.  Paula Span writes about that mushrooming phenomenon of middle-aged ladies having wild! crazy! fun! while wearing purple dresses and red hats, the so-called "Red Hat Society" spawned by the oft-quoted poem, something about "When I'm an old woman I shall wear purple" which apparently is supposed to imply some subversive countercultural social statement.  Um, ok.  

I often stumble into gaggles of these women when I'm unlucky enough to be going for an afternoon run through the Wharf down the Embarcadero (always a bad idea, especially on weekends).  They travel in herds, wearing the aforementioned red and purple crazy-lady attire, usually on their way to see the cringe-inducing menopause-themed musical that was playing at Pier 39 for a long time (erghh).  I always cross the street when I see them coming.  And run faster, and harder, repeating to myself mentally: I will never become a middle-aged lady.  I will never become a middle-aged lady.

I don't know why this uniform makes me cringe so much.  Perhaps because it's so clearly commodified the frustrated middle-aged woman's desire for companionship and joy and, well, the kind of looseness and ease in one's body that I often find strikingly absent in women of a certain age.  Perhaps because it screams so clearly of packaged non-conformity.  And perhaps it's just because gaggles of giggly women have always made me twitchy.

Sure, there's something to be said for a movement that gives probably lonely and bored and otherwise-joyless middle-aged women a reason to feel light and silly and connected and a part of something.  That's important.  It serves a social function, and a psychological one, to be sure.  But why does it always have to turn into an opportunity for branding, a sorority structured for exclusivity?  Why does it have to look like such organized hilarity?  And why is there such an absence of parody and dramaturgy and free 'n easy identity in these women's daily lives that it has to come packaged in such an easily-mass-marketed form?

Span writes that "there’s a current of anxiety running beneath these adaptations to late middle age, a fear of loss and mortality that drives us to declare, via one billboard or another: 'Life is better than ever! Nothing to worry about! I’m not that old yet!'"  I feel like there's something to this notion of an underlying "current of anxiety," a desperate searching for the kind of freewheeling silly parodic identity putting-on and taking-off (of the kind described by queer theorists like Judith Butler) that was missed in these women's earlier lives.  A long-term lifetime of playing-by-the-rules, not just sartorially, but emotionally, sexually, and intellectually, that now is finally being safely challenged by the donning of a red hat and a purple muu-muu.

It's a case of too little, too late, as far as I'm concerned.  Which is why I think it's important to do it now.  Why wait till you're fucking 60 and essentially socially invisible to wear crazy shit and tromp around in weird shoes and a feather boa?  Or is that why it's finally ok then - because women are pretty invisible after 45, so there's less at risk?  Why not do it now, in the guise of t-straps and red lips and a low-slung cloche?  What do you have to lose?  Approval from the Gap-clad masses?  And who wants their vanilla approval, anyway?

Moral of this increasingly long story is: do yer thing.  Wear yer own shit.  Whether it's 20s flapper fashion or 80's Flock of Seagulls hair or Civil War era jodhpurs [that is a Jared Smith shout-out, for any of yous Chrome-types who are actually still reading any of this].  Don't wait until you're 60 and bored and lonely.  Wear it now.  Rock it.  And go your own way.

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.


So at this point, let's just be honest: I'm totally obsessed with this election.  And for the next eight days, I don't expect that to change.  It's all Slate, NY Times, HuffPost, all the time.  Rereading the same quotations packaged differently in different articles.  Watching the same bad Fred Armisen Obama impressions.  Cringing as Elisabeth Hasselbeck stumps for Sarah Palin in the pretense that she's anything approximating progress.

But there is, ostensibly, an end in sight.  Even if that means the next week or so might look a lot like this morning, which was several hours' sprawling on my kitchen floor in my pajamas eating a burrito and drinking coffee and reading Salon on McCain. 

There are worse ways one could spend a Monday morning.

One of the first things I learned studying social theory is to distrust binaries.  Red/blue, black/white, gay/straight, right/wrong.  To trust the grey areas.  To recognize that they're often dense with wisdom.  And to realize what a farce it is to try to compartmentalize the world into easily opposable categories.

So this nonstop talk of red state/blue state is kind of grating on me.  Kind of reaching a breaking point.  But at the same time, it can be a useful metaphor for making sense of some basic trends.  The New Yorker wrapped a piece on teen sexuality around the whole red state/blue state evangelical divide.  And it's thought-provoking, especially for those of us who remain surprised at the reactions from the anti-sex Right regarding Bristol Palin's teen pregnancy.  

The article parses the reality of teen sexual behavior from the supposed image of abstinence projected by the Religious Right, and takes into account the marital success of red state vs. blue state patterns in considering which is really more stabilizing as a social unit:
"...[Researchers] Cahn and Carbone conclude, 'the paradigmatic red-state couple enters marriage not long after the woman becomes sexually active, has two children by her mid-twenties, and reaches the critical period of marriage at the high point in the life cycle for risk-taking and experimentation. The paradigmatic blue-state couple is more likely to experiment with multiple partners, postpone marriage until after they reach emotional and financial maturity, and have their children (if they have them at all) as their lives are stabilizing.'"
Skim through the statistics and dig a little more deeply into what they're saying about the failures of abstinence-only sex education as related to religion. It's just not sustainable. No longer relevant. And completely out of touch.

Red Sex, Blue Sex: Why Do So Many Evangelical Teenagers Become Pregnant? (New Yorker)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

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



Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: bright
Mood: tart
Music: Over the Rhine (again)

So, once again Bundt Cake Saturday hits and we continue to roll with the seasonal action. This week involves that most dreamy of autumnal childhood pleasures: no, not candy corn. The caramel apple. Is it just me, or do you still slow down to ogle the various caramel apples swathed in nuts and chocolate and delicious sweet sauces every time you pass by that airport chocolatier? Something about it holds you fast, long after you've moved on from grammar school. That sticky combo of sweet caramel and tart apple and messy-mouthed deliciousness. Nothing quite speaks of the season the same way.

So let's make a

CARAMEL APPLE BUNDT CAKE

I'm still on the autumnal apple bandwagon, so here's another good reason to use fresh local produce that's falling off the trees right now. The stores are full of Granny Smiths and Galas, so you can really play with different flavors here, too.

I found several different recipes, all of which were a little incomplete on their own, so I cobbled together a nice hybrid, dumping in as many extra fall flavors as I could. Cake's in the oven right now, and though the batter did smell especially delish, I'm crossing my fingers that things come out ok.

INGREDIENTS

1 package yellow cake mix
1 package (4 oz) vanilla Instant Pudding
2 teas. cinnamon
2 medium Granny Smith apples peeled; coarsely chopped
1 cup water
4 eggs
1 teas. vanilla
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
30 Kraft caramels unwrapped
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour your bundt pan and set aside. Beat cake mix, dry pudding mix, cinnamon, water, eggs, vanilla and oil in a large bowl with electric mixer until blended. Gently stir in apples, walnuts and raisins. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

So. The recipe didn't initially call for either cinnamon or vanilla, but I thought both would really help the flavor; already the batter is so swimmingly rich with cinnamon scent, I'm so glad that I added it. The raisins and walnuts should add another dimension, as well. You're supposed to peel the apples, but staring into the chopped up crescents in front of me this morning, I said "fuck it" and threw the peels in with the apples. So we'll hope that doesn't mess things up too much. The resulting colors were worth it, anyway.

A note of wisdom courtesy of Bundt Cake Bliss: when baking with apples, use a variety of kinds, instead of just Granny Smith or Fuji or Braeburn; the resulting flavors will complement one another and build a richer profile. Good to know.

I'm going to make a simple caramel glaze to finish things off once the cake is baked. It looks pretty easy. Just microwave your caramels and milk in microwaveable bowl on High for 2+ minutes; stirring every 30 seconds until blended. Cool 10 minutes until slightly thickened. Drizzle over cake. Add chopped toasted walnuts for a true caramel apple aesthetic.

Bite into that one, baby!

Recipe courtesy (in part) www.bigoven.com

Thursday, October 23, 2008

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


The bookstore nymphs ambushed me again the other day, sending me away laden with more purchases than I intended to make; this time, Rilke and Neruda.  The resulting days have been all poetry-colored.  And all I can say is, heart caught in throat: holy Neruda.

October Fullness

Little by little, and also in great leaps,
life happened to me,
and how insignificant this business is.
These veins carried
my blood, which I scarcely ever saw,
I breathed the air of so many places
without keeping a sample of any.
In the end, everyone is aware of this:
nobody keeps any of what he has,
and life is only a borrowing of bones.
The best thing was learning not to have too much
either of sorrow or of joy,
to hope for the chance of a last drop,
to ask more from honey and from twilight. ....

Our own wounds heal with weeping,
our own wounds heal with singing,
but in our own doorway lie bleeding
widows, Indians, poor men, fishermen.
The miner's child doesn't know his father
amidst all that suffering.

So be it, but my business
was
the fullness of the spirit:
a cry of pleasure choking you,
a sigh from an uprooted plant,
the sum of all action.

It pleased me to grow with the morning,
to bathe in the sun, in the great joy
of sun, salt, sea-light and wave,
and in that unwinding of the foam
my heart began to move,
growing in that essential spasm,
and dying away as it seeped into the sand.

~~  From Memorial de Isla Negra, 1964

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






1920's bob accomplished!

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


Thinking about change.

Obama-style change (sweet jesus, yes).  Seasons changing (daylight savings time coming up soon).  Hairstyles changing (flirting more seriously with that Jazz Age bob).  Priorities changing (little interest in bourbon, or late nights, anymore).  People changing (once flippant, now paternal).  Colors changing (hello, leaves).

One of the wisest bits I've gathered from my dabblings in Buddhism and yogic philosophy has been the reality of impermanence.  The fact that what most characterizes the life we know is transience; how foolish and unfortunate it is to cling to memories of the past or visions of the future; how futile it is to grasp so tightly to what we've grown accustomed to, digging our heels into the turning planet, trying to prevent it from churning along in its inevitable orbit.

Bits of physics (what little I know of it) and Process Theology, with their shared notions of the universe being in constant flux, perpetual change, ongoing creation, parallel these ecumenical ideas of ubiquitous impermanence.  There's something comforting about seeing such widespread cross-disciplinary acceptance of the whole idea.  So sometimes I wonder why it's so hard for us human-types to accept impermanence in all of its guises: the changing weather, or our changing bodies, or the relationships that ebb and flow with time and distance, or the priorities that shift according to space and place and moment.

Yoga Journal has a good piece hitting on some of this.  The article does a decent job of pinning down the more day-to-day manifestations of the sometimes ethereal notion of impermanence.  Read it, and find comfort in embracing the inevitable nature of change instead of resisting what is.  We waste so much energy resisting.

It's killer how you can see these ideas made real in your body during your standard yoga class.  You fight, and you fight, and you fight, refusing to open your hips up and swing low into that Triangle Pose.  Because it hurts, or you're afraid, or your foot slips, or you might fall out.  But then when you finally get sick of fighting and just give in to the pose and let your body be where it wants to be, whoosh! - it settles right in, and releases all that tension, and hurts like a bitch, and there you are.  And why did you ever fight that to begin with, when the resulting reality feels so damn good??

So don't fight the wrinkles, or the creaky back, or the lapsed friendship, or the peeling paint.  Shit changes.  What was is no more.  What will be is not yet.  And fuck if we can't just learn to sit here in the present tense and be with what is, even though we know it'll disappear, too soon or too late, doesn't matter; it will.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.


Saw this the other night.

Josh Brolin is so spot-on.  His mugging is frighteningly accurate.  Though I'll admit there were a few disturbing moments in his portrayal of Dubya the frat boy when I tried to counter the realization that Dubya (er, Brolin) was really hot.

Not much to say in terms of plot - you all know the story, past and present.  But I will say, there's something to be said for seeing the iconic aspects of Dubya's history enacted: the drinking, the aimlessness, the born-again conversion.  And the portrayals of Dubya's inner circle - Cheney, Rice, Powell, etc. - are entertaining beyond the SNL-style impression level.  Thandie Newton as Rice is serious Halloween material.  The crowd was laughing at her painfully clenched and twitchy portrayal.  But that's only because it was so creepily accurate.

Certainly not as rough-edged or as scandalous as I'd expected, especially given that Oliver Stone rushed to get this film out before the election.  But it's worth a few hours.  Stone manages to work in some of Bush's more egregious verbal flubs, and between those and the impish Karl Rove running around after him, it's plenty laughable, in a painful kind of way.

James Cromwell is getting good buzz as the thoughtful and aloof elder Bush, and Elizabeth Banks makes for a lovely, albeit secondary, Laura.  But it's Brolin all the way, in terms of carrying the film.  He's really very good.

Monday, October 20, 2008

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


Caught up in music, and the moon, and Mraz.  

~ Bella Luna ~

You are an illuminating anchor
Of leagues to infinite number
Of crashing waves and breaking thunder
Tiding the ebb and flows of hunger
You're dancing naked there for me
You expose all memory
You make the most of boundary
You're the ghost of royalty imposing love
You are the queen and king combining everything
Intertwining like a ring around the finger, of a girl
I'm just a singer, you're the world
All I can bring ya
Is the language of a lover
Bella luna, my beautiful beautiful moon
How you swoon me like no other


Sunday, October 19, 2008

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

Sha-ZAM!  That's about all I could think this morning listening to Republican Colin Powell endorse Obama for Prez.  

Powell's little 7-minute spiel on Meet the Press highlighted everything from McCain's poor judgment as evidenced by his choice of the unqualified Palin as VP, to his clear unsurety about the economic crisis, to the potential for two more conservative Supreme Court justices, to American anti-Muslim fearmongering.  

But ultimately, Powell seems most taken with Obama's "transformational figure" and "depth of intellectual curiosity," and he's willing to stand behind that.  Love, love, love it.  Watch the vid.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

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


Here's some food for thought on a sleepy Saturday morning, courtesy of Dale Martin's Sex and the Single Savior:
"Coupled with the obscene emphasis on patriotism and nationalism, the emphasis on the family in American Christianity and popular culture approaches idolatry. ....  I believe that both the state and the church should get out of the marriage business.

There are many excellent reasons why people in general and Christians in particular should not want to give the state the power to recognize and regulate marriage.  When we give the state the right to legitimize one kind of sexual relationship or social formation, we automatically give it the right to render all other relations illegitimate.  Surely, the church should never cede its own prerogatives to the state - especially a state as bloodstained and beholden to the interests of the powerful as ours is.  But all people should realize this: when you marry, you give power to the state over your sexual relations, your person, the most intimate details of your life and body.  To agree to marriage is to agree that the modern, violent, bureaucratic state has the right to control your life in its most intimate realms, public and private, personal and sexual, individual and collective.  Not to put too fine a point on it, marriage cedes your genitals to the government."   (p. 122)
Um, got that?  Told you the Martin book was provocative.

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



Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: grey
Mood: quiet
Music: Over the Rhine (thanks, M&P!)

Bundt cake Saturday, and I'm ready for some serious autumn action this morning.  We're in the deep of October, which means football season's in full swing and the teams we once hoped might be great are now 3-3 and the air is a little chillier and the scents tend toward the spiced and I'm wearing burnt oranges and reds and mustard yellows like summer was never here.  And everyone's preoccupied with planning out their most brilliant and creative and original Halloween costumes.  And I'm pretty much just wondering who won't be dressing up as Sarah Palin this year.

So this morning we're making a good hearty autumn cake.  Nothing particularly fancy, nothing especially complicated.   Just good scents, strong flavors, and a kitchen that already smells like fall.  So happy October to your very own

PUMPKIN SPICE BUNDT CAKE

Recipe is pretty easy; just follow this basic outline and throw in additions as you see fit.

INGREDIENTS

1 pkg. spice cake mix
1 sm. can pumpkin
1 pkg. instant vanilla pudding
1/2 c. oil
3 eggs
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. water
1/2 c. walnuts

Combine all but nuts and mix well. Add nuts. Bake in greased and floured Bundt pan at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.

In a real show of brilliance I forgot to throw in both the raisins AND the walnuts that I'd planned on adding.  Whoops.  So for now, I just laid out a few walnuts to toast as the cake finished baking, and I'll chop those and sprinkle them on top of the icing once the cake is frosted.

As far as I'm concerned, spice cakes of any kind mandate a cream cheese frosting.  So that's what we'll be doing.  I've discovered that if you frost the cake when it's still a little warm, your frosting will melt nicely, creating a pretty artistic look.  Drizzle those chopped toasted walnuts on top.  


I've got a dying eucalyptus-hypericum arrangement on my kitchen table, so I pulled out a few sprigs of hypericum to decorate the finished cake.  They look so pretty and seasonal.  Once again, proof that it's always smart to have flowers on hand.

Recipe courtesy cooks.com

Friday, October 17, 2008

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


The sis and bro-in-law arrived Tuesday night in the midst of the Epic Road Trip of 2008.  We've been having urban adventures ever since (and trying to walk the sedentary-induced blood clots out of their legs).

After marching through, oh, every possible alleyway up and down California Street, up the Filbert Stairs and down the Lombard St. curves, through the Presidio across the Golden Gate into Sausalito, um, I think we managed.  And might I mention that these two troopers heaved their way (gracefully, for the record) through a Bikram class with me, too?  Impressive.  

Oh, and we made a rainbow bundt.  For Kenny.  It was delicious.



That makes all three siblings here in the last six months. Well done, team.


The bridge was great on a weekday, sans tourists.


First post-Bikram lunch.  Can you see those abs hardening?



Do you think we're related?




Tired, after hauling ass across the City in 1.5 hours.  Also, did not realize the Filbert Steps were so, uh, extensive.




They cheerleaded at my softball game last night. We clobbered the other guys. A coincidence? I think not. This is me about to hit a grand slam home run over the fence. Or a grounder to the shortstop only to get thrown out at first.  Choose your own ending.  I think I have a future in baseball.  As Mrs. Barry Zito.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Raw, idiom: 14a. in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.


This week's YJ newsletter made me feel all kinds of proud of myself for getting on the apple bandwagon. The editors recommend the same seasonal fruit fixation:
"According to Ayurvedic medicine, apples help draw out of the body the heat that accumulates over the summer—heat that can dry out and cause digestive distress in the winter season. The pectin in apples also helps to clean and heal digestive mucosa, according to Ayurvedic doctor John Douillard."
Along with the advice to eat as many Macintoshes as possible, they offer up this excellent dosha-balancing asana series for drawing the summer heat out of your body and cultivating that yin turn that we talked about last week.  It looks like the kind of series you can easily do for 15 minutes in your living room.  Find it here.  Your body will thank you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.


Are you as sick as I am of people aligning Mc-Palin and the GOP with "Christian family values?"

Here in the Lefty Disneyland that I call home, it's easy to turn off the harpy conservative voices out there that continue to associate the Republican Party with Christian ethics.  We live in a bubble.  I haven't seen a single McCain sticker on a bumper or plastered to a window.  It's easy-breezy, liberal fruitiness all the time.  Rainbows and unicorns.  Yippee.

But I keep getting these whiffs of Republican discontent from the various channels in my life that retain connections to fundamentalism and conservative Christianity.  And, I could say, it alarms me.  Or I could be real and say it pisses me the fuck off.  (Breathing, breathing.)  Conservative "Christians" continue to align Mc-Palin's anti-body, anti-sex, anti-family, anti-planet, anti-justice policies with "Christian" values, which just blows my mind.  The insistence upon association without clear mindful contemplation of what's really going on here is baffling.

But instead of curling further into my Blue State cocoon, I'm trying to actually make an effort to channel this fury rather than letting it eat me up inside as I curse Fox News and shake my fist at the mainstream media.  And the best way to fight battles like these, which are so bound up in literalistic readings of ancient scriptures, is to take down the enemy with his own sword.

So even though I'm not a huge fan of scriptural deconstruction, this morning I cracked open two dishy new tomes: the first, Dirt, Greed & Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today, by William Countryman, who was a prof in Berkeley while I was doing my grad work there.  It was first published in 1987, but a second edition came out last year and it's certainly one of the standards in the discussion of issues of purity and property as related to sex and sexual ethics.  Heavy on the scriptural content and self-awarely committed to avoiding "liberal" or "conservative" labels, it still breaks open conversations and questions that many conservative Christians assume to be "givens."

The second book is a little more recent, and tends more toward the postmodern side: Dale Martin's Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation.  Again, more textual work than I usually go for, but damn, is it provocative.  Martin's collection of essays hits on everything from a potentially homosexual Jesus to Paul's anti-marriage stance (did you know he viewed marriage as a "cure" for burning desire?  In other words, if you don't wanna crave sex anymore, get married) to the idolatry of contemporary Christian sacralizations of the nuclear family.  It's pretty rich stuff, and all rooted in the very scriptures that the fundamentalists like to turn to so quickly for justification of their reactionary ideological agendas.

Get reading.  Do something to arm yourself to match their arguments.  Nothing feels so good as being able to throw scriptural references right back at the fundamentalists who cling so fearfully to them, particularly when a national election hinges on their votes.

Monday, October 13, 2008

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






Heh heh.

Look what B sent.

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


I've got a serious crush.  On swiss chard.

It's often on my mind, mixed with currants and pine nuts.  I get all nervous and fluttery thinking about all the things I can do with it.  So vibrant, I blush.  Can't sleep at night thinking about how excited I am to head down to the farmers' market to snag a bundle.  I want to tell everyone about it.  And it makes me feel good.  

(Vegetable crushes are waaaaay better than dude crushes.  For the record.)

There's a myriad of recipes out there right now for this stylish and seasonal veg.  Trade in your usual spinach or kale for this green wunkerkind - it's related to beets and has many of the same vibrant colors, but an interesting bitter and slightly salty taste that goes well with a little olive oil and garlic.

Check out this recipe series in the Times - they've got a few good options, including the above-mentioned currants and pine nuts.  And Vegetarian Times has a good little blurb called "1 Food 5 Ways."  Finally, head over to trusty old World's Healthiest Foods for the lowdown on all the mad fiber, potassium and vitamin K involved in this king of greens.

Swiss Chard (Veg Times)
Swiss Chard (WH Foods)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

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



Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: hot
Mood: sniffly
Music: Dario Marianelli's Atonement (swoon)

And good morning on this Fleet Weekend.  Sailors are afoot.  The Blue Angels have been practicing overhead for the last two afternoons, and it's the only reason I'm grateful for my still-clogged sinuses; the phlegm buffers the roar somewhat.  Not enough, but it's a start.  

So last week when Baby Rach was born, I told her momma that this week's bundt would be all about an Ode to Baby Rach.  Mom's got a predilection for chocolate, so I wanted to find a recipe that was chocolatey without being heavy.  Say what you want about all those years of studying the social construction of gender, but as soon as this little girl was born, all I could think about were soft whites and yellows and pinks.  So inasmuch as I'm fully aware that I'm falling into all kinds of gender binaries here (hello, Judith Butler), I'm going to roll with the girly impulses and load this shit up with lace and glitter and bows.  Oh well.

So as a little bundt-shaped welcome to Baby Rachel Lynn, let's make a 

WHITE CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE

I actually struggled to find a recipe for this one; ended up crafting my own hybrid out of a few recipes I found.  So I'm crossing my fingers that it works.  The dough was awfully lumpy when I finally poured it into the pan, and it's looking like it's actually rising, but we'll give it 20 minutes or so yet in the oven and then see what happens.  

INGREDIENTS

1 box white cake mix
2-1 oz. instant white chocolate pudding
2-1 oz. instant vanilla pudding
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk
1 large egg
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Grease and flour your bundt pan and set aside.  Combine cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, oil, milk, egg and egg whites, blending until well mixed. Stir in white chocolate chips. Bake @ 350 for 40-55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted comes out clean (mine needed close to an hour).  Cool cake on rack for 10 minutes before inverting on serving plate.

Like I said, the dough was so thick it was almost bread-like, so I added a little more milk than the recipe called for.  It's browning decently, so we'll see what it looks like when it comes out of the oven.  I don't want to overpower the cake with heavy frosting, so decided to make a glaze to drizzle on top.  

Your glaze looks roughly like this: 
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
3 tablespoons milk
a little melted butter
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

To prepare glaze, combine white chocolate chips and milk in small microwavable bowl. Microwave on medium (50%) 1 minute; stir. Microwave on medium at additional 30-second intervals until chips are completely melted; stir well after each 30-second interval.

I kind of made that one up, so am hoping it sticks.  Just mix things in until you get the consistency you want.  White chocolate is apparently not the easiest to bake with, as it tends to burn or separate.  But so far, so good.

After drizzling the glaze, I sprinkled silver edible glitter on top.  The cake did fall in a bit on one side, so I took it as a sign that this bundt really needed a bow.  So I whipped up a little yellow and white lace bow to hide that side.

I trust that Baby Rach will be cuter than this cake turned out.  And obviously she'll be much sweeter.  Har har.

Recipe courtesy (in part) sweetnicks.com

Thursday, October 9, 2008

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


Early spring and autumn are excellent times to do a fast.  

(You're scared already?  Don't be.  It's not as crazy as you'd think.)

Many homeopaths recommend doing a cleanse a few times a year to give your body a chance to breathe again, reset a bit, and clear itself out.  Most of us give our bodies little time to do this on a day-to-day basis (unless you have taken my advice to eat only fruits before noon, which is a great natural cleanse), and as a result, our bodies get toxic, dense, clogged up and kind of miserable.  So when the equinoxes bring change to the seasons, it makes sense that we'd do the same kind of thing for our bodies.  And fasting is a natural, instinctive activity; think of the ways many animals, when sick, stop eating so as to divert all of their metabolic energies toward getting healthy again.

I woke up this morning with a nasty case of the flu: achy everything, runny nose, nauseous head, bleary vision, miserable coughing.  It was all I could do to get out of bed.  That's no surprise, really, given that I've spent the last week eating a lot of crap that I usually don't: having a beer here and there while watching the debates, eating more cheese and white refined flour products like chips and bread than I ever really do.  So it's no wonder that the ol' bod finally said: Enough with it!  Give me something nourishing!

So I cancelled all my plans for the day and set in to get things back in order.  I had boatloads of writing to do, and an empty house, and plenty of detox tea, which meant that the day turned into a quiet clear respite with only an intensely detoxifying yoga practice to break things up a bit.  And it just so turns out, my fridge was already stocked with Fujis and Granny Smiths.

Have you heard of the Apple Fast?  A friend recommended it to me some 7 or 8 years ago, and I've found it useful from time to time when my body needs a seasonal reboot of sorts.  Like I said, most alternative health practitioners encourage doing a fast of some type a few times a year, for many reasons.  But I've never been able to get on board with full 100% juice fasts, and the Apple Fast provides the same sorts of results without having to spend your whole day shoving cored apples into your juicer.  Plus, there's fiber involved, which is super important for a fast.

Basically you just eat apples all day for 3 days; the apples are rich in pectin, which is really useful for a cleanse.  Drink tons of water; I mean tons.  Cut back on coffee and tea if you can, too.  You'll have plenty of energy because you're getting the simple sugars from the apple, but they take longer to digest than, say, faster-moving melon sugars would.  And because apples are so easy for your body to digest, it will divert its metabolic energies toward healing and cleansing any toxins that might have built up.

I have one of the craziest weekends of the year coming up at work starting tomorrow, so I don't know if I'll be able to sustain this through Saturday night, but already after just one day my flu symptoms are sloughing away and my skin is looking more like its glowy raw self instead of the pasty dull white-sugar-influenced tone I've been rocking of late.  And my body feels lighter and clearer than it has in at least a week of bleu cheese and Trumer Pils.

There are plenty of variations on this online; just google "apple fast" or "apple cleanse" and you'll find them.  Some people recommend doing this once a month; I really like that idea, as a regular sort of break for your body.  Choose a day wherein your physical exertions aren't particularly extensive, and start chomping those Granny Smiths.

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


Do you read Tricycle?  You really should.

Tricycle calls itself "the independent voice of Buddhism," and though its online content is fairly limited unless you're a subscriber, it's worth a few minutes' browsing if you've got them.  I can get lost in the archives pretty easily - although it's definitely a good kind of "lost."

Two quick highlights this morning:

Phillip Moffitt has a short piece on the types of desire.  I'm doing a lot of syncretic work right now comparing Buddhist and Christian notions of desire, and this is killer.  A good peek at what can be an overwhelming dive into various types of Buddhist sensibilities.  I'm quickly learning that just as "Christian" can simultaneously mean scary pscyho anti-body conservatives or social justice-oriented pacifists, so too is it dangerous to clump "Buddhists" into one big lump.  Many stances, many ways.

An interview with well-known Buddhist Jack Kornfield on poetry, which is really worth your time.  In the span of a quick two-page conversation, Kornfield drops many of the most heart-stopping names out there: Neruda, Rilke, MLK Jr., Hafiz, etc.  A lilting dialogue on the nature of literature and sorrow, and the importance of keeping a cultural space for the spare beauty that poetry brings to the table.  Here's a blurb:
"Pablo Neruda, toward the end of his life, was invited to read in Caracas. He read for quite a long time before a large crowd. Then he asked, “Is there anything else you’d like to hear?” Someone raised a hand and asked, “Would you please read Poem 19 from Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair?” Neruda answered, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t bring that with me,” at which four hundred people rose to their feet to recite the poem. What a culture that is, to have the poet’s voice in the hearts of so many people."
31 Flavors of Craving

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

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


Ok, so the big take-aways from tonight's debate seem to be:

1) McCain's "that one" comment directed toward Obama, whom he once again failed to ever address by name, and whom he barely acknowledged by looking at him or shaking his hand.  I have a feeling this will be all over the media tomorrow.

2) McCain's condescension toward questioner Oliver, with his comment about how he'd probably never heard about Fannie or Freddie before.  WTF.

3) All the pundits seem to be calling it for Obama.  Nothing earth-shaking, but it was solid, and Barack was presidential.  McCain just looked uncomfortable and disembodied.  And his attempts at humor fell flat.  (Was that a hair transplant dig at Biden, by the way?)

Somehow I missed this last week, but the NYT is doing a "Road to November" series, driving across I-80 to get a sense of the national political mood (particularly in undecided states), and it started the series with a look at San Francisco.  Nothing revelatory here (although there are a few good pics), but I think the article is accurate in pointing out the increasingly fiscally-conservative denizens here; with all this tech wealth comes the kind of fiscal conservatism we haven't seen so much of heretofore.  An interesting and quick read:
"Here in San Francisco, the western terminus of Interstate 80, is the edge of the continental United States, and, as many believe, the fringe of its professed values. Voters are long accustomed to serving as the bat with which many Republicans use their city to beat up on the Democratic Party. In large part, they wear with pride their reputation for being collectively unreasonable and unshaven."
Heh heh, "unshaven."  Read the whole thing; it's short.

Monday, October 6, 2008

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


Mustard's the word.

The new "It" color, the new aesthetic, the new scheme.  Here, at least; now.  Mustard everywhere.  I'm washing dresses of mustard, wearing vintagey low-cut puffy-sleeved sweaters of mustard, decorating in mustard, dreaming in mustard.  It's warm, it's golden, it's that twilight-time tone that streams in the corner window circa 5:45 on a good autumn afternoon.  It's honeyed, it's smooth, it's settled, it's kind.  It's Cal, it's UDel, it's wilting sunflowers on my kitchen table.  

It's autumn.  It's mustard.  And it's mine.

Helen Frankenthaler apparently thought so too, circa 1970, when she created Sesame, left.  A real beaut, isn't she?

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


The NYT Fashion & Style section was full of particularly craptastic puff pieces over the weekend.  Not only can you catch up on your most superficial understandings of polyamory amongst the metropolitan 30ish set, but you can study up on what it looks like when you tell your friend-with-benefits that you're moving to California (even though you're not) instead of just being, well, what they call "assertive" or "communicative" and just telling him you're over it.

But the best of the section has to be this groundbreaking anthropological piece on single straight men "coming out of the cat closet."  Embracing their feline side.  Asserting that they are actually more set in their masculinity since they don't need the "wingman" that is a dog, but instead just have the self-sufficient cat as their primary relationship.  

According to one expert-on-the-basis-of-the-fact-that-she-dated-a-dude-with-a-cat, "Straight men with cats seem to be really secure and stable. They don’t need to be running around the park and proving their masculinity like the dog guys.”  Got that, guys?

It's a head-shaking riff on the implications of dude cat ownership on masculinity.  They even interview a "cat therapist."  And cite Papa Hemingway (above left) as proof that dudes with cats can still drink heavily, bang lots of chicks, and hang large dead animals on their walls.

A-ma-zing!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.


I am rapidly losing patience.

Not only do we have Sarah Palin tossing out her "bless their hearts" in debates and invoking the End Times in regard to global warming (on the latest SNL skit, sure, but c'mon, it might as well be coming from her mouth instead of Tina Fey's), but we've got a nation of fundamentalist "Joe Six-Packs" nodding their heads in agreement as both Palin and Biden argue against equal civil rights under the Constitution on the most-watched television event of the season.  

I'm SO. SICK. of this religious right crap.  And I fear, so deeply, that the election that is now less than a month away will remain perilously close because of these supposed God-issues in spite of the fact that the Republican VP candidate still seems fairly incapable of stringing together a coherent sentence not reliant upon talking points or the word "maverick."

ARGHH.  So check what this latest tussle from the religious right looks like.  Some backwards parents in bumfuck New York are challenging the teaching of yoga in schools because they're afraid of the "Hindu doctrinization" going on.  WTF.  This christofascist crap has hit the limit.  Seriously.  I'm over it.  Blood boiling.  Moving to Canada.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

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



Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: drizzly
Mood: heavy-lidded
Music: Faure

Ok, then!  

Rainy Saturday morning here, and the neighbors have moved out, which means peace and quiet and no whiny girl wailing American Idol-style upstairs.  And there's atonal minor action on the stereo, and my kitchen smells like baking vodka, and my coffee cup is full.  There are worse ways to spend a lazy morning.

Today we have a Flour-y Ode to Sarah Palin.  Not gonna lie; this morning's cake is a redux, as I made a similar one Thursday for the little VP debate gathering we had at my house.  But it did go over well, and it's so damn appropriate right now that I couldn't help but give it another shot, this time with a different glaze and perhaps a little more kahlua.

Feeling efficient today, so let's get right to the action.  So in honor of Sarah Palin's foreign policy experience (or lack thereof), I give you an honest-to-goodness ("Say it ain't so, Joe!")

BLACK RUSSIAN BUNDT CAKE

Yes, "Black Russian" as in that dangerous cocktail, as in kahlua and vodka, as in "I can see Russia from my house."  Yep.  It's easy, it's fast, and it's alcoholically delicious.  So let's get on with it.

INGREDIENTS

1 (18.25-ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 (5.9-ounce) package instant chocolate pudding
4 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 cup coffee liqueur
3/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 350*F (175*C). Grease and flour a 9 to 10-inch bundt pan; set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, white sugar, oil, vodka, 1/4 cup liqueur and water. Beat with electric mixer for four minutes. Pour batter into prepared bundt pan.  Bake for 50 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes; remove from pan.

This really is an easy one.  Both times, I've found that it takes a bit longer to bake, though.  So don't be surprised if it's in the oven for close to an hour.

When I made it on Thursday, I whipped up some cheesy red-white-and-blue icing and sprinkled it with silver edible glitter.  The icing made a nice contrast to the strong flavor of the cake.  Today I've decided to do a kahlua glaze instead.  It's super-easy:

KAHLUA GLAZE

Combine 1/4 cup coffee liqueur and 1/2 cup powdered sugar.  Place cake on serving plate. Poke cake with the tines of a long fork. Spoon glaze over cake and dust with remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar.

Simple, basic, doesn't distract from the pretty spiral shape of the heritage pan.  Get in there.


Recipe courtesy www.cooksrecipes.com