Thursday, April 30, 2009

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


Have you read any Adrienne Rich?

If you haven't, well, my love, you need to get yourself to a library, immediately. Poet and essayist Rich's "On Claiming an Education" changed my life as a quietly political 16-year-old, and her "Compulsory Heterosexuality" continues to be a must-read on every syllabus in any kind of class dealing with bodies, sexuality and society. That piece in particular is worth your time whether you identify as hetero/homo/bi/asexual or anything in-between.

That said, Rich has a new collection of essays out right now, and the Chron's Book section gave it a look in last Sunday's edition. A Human Eye: Essays on Art in Society, 1997-2008 gathers a number of Rich's recent writings on poetry, social justice, aesthetics and activism. Reviewer Michael S. Roth writes that in her work, "Rich continues to refuse to separate the artistic from the political, and she articulates in powerful ways how a truly radical political agenda can draw upon an aesthetic vision." (Whew. Is it wrong that I'm a little turned on right now?)

Give it a read.

'A Human Eye,' by Adrienne Rich (SFGate)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

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


Today there's someone I know sailing down the interstate in a sweet-ass VW van listening to bad talk radio and chucking sunflower seed shells out the window.  His left arm is sunburned from hanging out the window, but it's all good because the sun is shining and the wind's whipping and the horizon just keeps stretching ahead.  And I'm sitting in the passenger seat, bare feet on the dashboard, right arm browning in the sun, and it's a long haul, but a good one, and the sun just keeps shining, so we just keep driving.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

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


The wind in SF this week has been straight-up prairie wind.  It blows me down the hill, it blasts me off the sidewalks into the street, it whips my hat off and spirals it down the block.  It's a tease, a flirt, bearing memories and musings.  And man, do I need a dose.

Sigh.  Willa C. will have to do.

             ~ 

Prairie Spring

Evening and the flat land,
Rich and somber and always silent;
The miles of fresh plowed soil,
Heavy and black, full of strength and harshness;
The growing wheat, the growing weeds,
The toiling horses, the tired men;
The long empty roads,
Sullen fires of sunset, fading,
The eternal, unresponsive sky.
Against all this, Youth,
Flaming like the wild roses,
Singing like the larks over the plowed fields,
Flashing like a star out of the twilight,
Youth with its insupportable sweetness,
Its fierce necessity,
Its sharp desire,
Singing and singing,
Out of the lips of silence,
Out of the earthy dusk.

-- Willa Cather

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


Another crackling film for you to see once you schlep yourselves out to Enlighten Up:


And no, it's not just because I've had this LaBute thing going on lately.  And no, it's not just because Aaron Eckhart is my latest movie-star boyfriend for whom, although I'm not really the marrying type, I'd quickly slap on a ring.  And no, it's not just because it's dark and cynical and smart and sexy.  Although that's part of it.

Really, you should see it.  Released in 1998, so it feels a little dated, if only in the fashions and the fact that most of these ensemble players have moved on to legit celebrity-sized careers.  Ben Stiller, Catherine Keener, Amy Brenneman, Jason Patric, and of course the above-mentioned Eckhart all shine in LaBute's comedy-drama of manners.  It's dark and it's anti-suburban and it's, well, yeah, I'd say it's pretty damn anti-marriage, and it's realistic and sharp and snappy and snarky and so frankly, well, frank about sex and relationships and gender and the fact that we talk not enough or too much or not about the right things, and on and on and on.

Watching this, I thought to myself: my god, I know these people.  The acting is nuanced and sharp and the writing even moreso; LaBute is so unflinchingly in touch with the real textures of relationships, particularly as related to the complexities of sex and monogamy and plain irritation, that I just laugh even thinking about the incomparable drivel being produced by other rom-com writers like Nancy Meyers right now.

Seriously, watch it.  And not just for the usually-dreamy Eckhart's transformation into mushy suburban mustachio'd mode.  But for LaBute in fine form.  And a searing look at YOUR friends and neighbors.  Because you know this is the really gritty and delicious stuff of life going on behind the tight smiles on the stiffly-posed family Christmas card photos that land in your mailboxes every autumn.  You know it.

Delicious ambiguity.  LaBute scores again.

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


Gary Regan writes some consistently excellent articles for the Chron under the byline of "The Cocktailian," keeping tabs on the local bar scene.  I enjoy getting his take on the latest hits and misses in what is one of the hotter cocktail markets in the country.  I missed this particular piece while out of town last week, but luckily spent a few minutes rifling through my old copy of the Sunday Chron and stumbled upon Regan's "keeper" of an article: his "10 Essential Cocktails You Can Make at Home."

Cut it out, paste it on your refrigerator, make yourselves comfortable with a few of these basic recipes.  Regan offers some terrific tips on how to stock a decent home liquor cabinet, how to shake a few of these most classic cocktails, and how not to mess them up in the process.  Watch for a few digs in his writing style - I like the way he lets his personality shine through.  And that old-school daiquiri recipe of his - sans blender and faux-fruit flavors, naturally - looks like a winner.  Might be the next Manhattan-style comeback craze?  Perhaps.

Cheers.

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




Sign spotted on my usual Monday evening walk to class.  
(Just another day in paradise.)

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


Yesterday I attended  a preview screening of the new film Enlighten Up!, which opens here in the Bay Area this weekend.  We were also lucky enough to have a few minutes of Q&A with the director, Kate Churchill, following the screening.

While reviews seem to be somewhat mixed, the piece being what it is - I really enjoyed it.  And I recommend taking an hour or two to catch it yourselves if you have time.  Whether you're a yoga expert or a novice, it's a pleasant little travelogue-style introduction to the questions of transformation, spirit and body inherent in the whole yoga project.

The obligatory website blurb:
Over 16 million Americans practice yoga today, and it has become a multi-billion dollar industry. For some people it is a workout, for others it is a spiritual path, and for others it is a great business. Filmmaker Kate Churchill is determined to prove that yoga can transform anyone. Nick Rosen is skeptical but agrees to be her guinea pig. Kate immerses Nick in yoga, and follows him around the world as he examines the good, the bad and the ugly of yoga. The two encounter celebrity yogis, true believers, kooks and world-renowned gurus. Tensions run high as Nick's transformational progress lags and Kate's plan crumbles. What unfolds and what they discover is not what they expected. Featuring B.K.S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, Norman Allen, Sharon Gannon, David Life, Gurmukh, Dharma Mitra, Cyndi Lee, Alan Finger, Rodney Yee, Beryl Bender Birch, Shyamdas, Diamond Dallas Page and many more!
Nick Rosen makes for a pretty dreamy guinea pig, and Churchill & Crew's many jaunts across the world to meet these gurus and practice at various studios offer an entertaining glimpse of the international yoga scene.  Though Churchill's project doesn't necessarily end the way she thought it might, the real yogic lesson of the film might in fact lie in that very lack of resolution.

I tried to scribble a few notes in the dark theater, which pretty much just resulted in a few pages of illegible chicken-scratches, but the few juicy bits I did retain are worth remembering.  These themes will not be unfamiliar to anyone immersed in any kind of yoga study.  They include, among others, 
  • The idea that the only thing that will ever really transform you is practice.
  • That the physical is often the starting point for spiritual transformation.
  • Dharma Mitra emphasizing that the real gurus and saints always say: "I am nothing."  "I don't know."
  • "Don't do anything for your small self."
  • Charisma isn't enough.  Rosen wants facts.
  • In my favorite line of the film, guru Norman Allen tells Rosen the best way to achieve enlightenment (moksha - liberation), in the Tantric worldview: "You know what you need to do?  Go fuck yourself."
  • David Gordon White says the old-school Indian yogi was a sinister wandering sorcerer type, a dangerous vagabond, someone to be feared.  I dig this.  Screw that Lululemon soft wanky crap.  I knew there was much more edge to this whole thing than the softies would like to admit.
  • Diamond Dallas Page's hilariously racy alternative to the ubiquitous "Namaste" greeting.  (I won't ruin it for you here.  See the film.)
  • "Whole life.  That's practice."  Says Pattabhi Jois, father of Ashtanga yoga.
  • Laughing yoga.  So much like theater, in many ways.  Emphasizing the playfulness of being in a body.  The ability to put on and take off identities and identifications.  The idea that one becomes spiritual by "raising your spirits, and raising someone else's spirits" via collective laughter.
  • The danger of throwing the word "transformation" around.  What the hell does that mean, anyway?  We need to keep asking this.
  • Yoga brings Rosen to reflect on his relationships with his family.  Isn't that an interesting byproduct of his many travels and classes.
  • The idea that the "real" yoga is not asana, but is instead bhakti yoga.  (Bhakti = God).  
  • "Questions are never stupid.  Answers are stupid."
  • "It is not important what you are doing.  It is important WHY you are doing."
  • The importance of being one's true self.  "As much as possible, try to get rid of what you are not." I like this.  It draws up the notion of neti-neti, once again.
  • Happiness is not outside.  It is inside ourselves.
Ok.  So none of those ideas are probably unheard of in these parts.  But there was something lovely about seeing them worked through onscreen in the midst of beautiful vibrant colors, lush cinematography and meandering music.

Rosen wrote a quickie piece for the HuffPost a few weeks ago about his experience making the film.  Give it a read here.  And then wander on over to the official film site for a trailer, video clips, and details on the film's run here in SF and beyond.  Official opening weekend is Friday, and Churchill will be making a few more appearances at screenings, so take a close look at the flier at left for details on that.  There's also a brief interview with Rosen and Churchill over at NPR if you feel so inclined.

Monday, April 27, 2009

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





"Life's a pain in the butt. You've got to be in shape for it. And the hell with the good old days. The most important thing is now. What are you this moment?"

 — Jack LaLanne, 94-year-old fitness guru 
and general badass

Saturday, April 25, 2009

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



Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: early
Mood: buttery
Music: Over the Rhine

Aaaaaand welcome back to Saturday morning baking charades after some time away.  It's bright and clear and crisp in the City this morning, nothing like the heat from earlier in the week, but spring-like nonetheless.  May Day is around the corner, so I hope you're all busy working on the May baskets you're going to leave at my doorstep next week.  Looking forward to daisy chains and maypoles and shit.

SO let's whip up an easy little cake today.  This is a flavor I've flirted with in the past, but not really found an ideal recipe.  Thanks to Melissa's Nordicware Bundt Entertaining book, I've managed to rely on a basic recipe and weave in a few extra ingredients at the same time.  The cake's in the oven now, about 20 minutes left, so refill your coffee cup, add a hefty splash of butterscotch schnapps and let's make a 

BUTTERSCOTCH RUM BUNDT CAKE

Nothing earth-shaking here; I've been skipping over the butterscotch pudding for these last many months, so this morning it's finally getting its due.  Add a little complementary hard liquor (obvs!) and you'll have a rich, moist breakfast cake, a nice match for your morning joe, if you'd prefer a sugary way to kick-start the day.

INGREDIENTS

1 package yellow cake mix
1 package instant butterscotch pudding mix
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. rum extract (or the equivalent measure of dark rum)  
1 cup butterscotch morsels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, milk, oil, eggs and rum extract. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add butterscotch morsels and stir by hand until well mixed in. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack, and continue to cool completely.

And that's about it.  Easy.  My batter seemed a little runny, so I left it in the oven a good hour or so.  Play it by ear.  You might want to try adding a little yogurt or sour cream next time.

We'll finish it with a butterscotch rum glaze.  Your ingredients look like this:

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbl. milk
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. rum extract
Splash butterscotch schnapps (if you have it on hand)

In a saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar and milk. Bring to full boil. Add sugar, extract and schnapps. Beat til smooth. Add more milk if necessary. Drizzle over top of warm cake. 

I saved back a few butterscotch morsels to finish.  Sprinkle those on the cooled cake and you're good to go.  Cheers.

Friday, April 24, 2009

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


Salon interviewed Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson last week about his new book, The Face On Your Plate: The Truth About Food.  The piece is worth a few minutes of your time.

I love so much about this article.  Masson comes off not as one of those stereotypical hostile vegans, but as a measured, thoughtful activist/writer.  Not only does he refer to himself as "veganish," demonstrating the kind of self-aware flexibility that I find so appealing, but he discusses the whole question of why it's so hard to convince meat-eaters to abandon the slaughter with grace and mindfulness.

Masson's book is another in the steady list of titles that lay out the many rational arguments against eating meat.  He makes so many of the points that I've seen emphasized other places, but here, they somehow seem fresh; maybe it's because he manages to be polemical without being abrasive.  How refreshing.

What else do I appreciate about the interview?  Masson's understanding that he operates as an activist from the radical periphery.  His emphasis on commodification and the way that meat-eating makes commodities of living sentient beings.  His discussion of our cultural denial of death (both of the animals we eat, and our own), and the way that we sanitize meat-eating to avoid engaging with the realities of violence and slaughter.  And finally, the way he's so clearly aware of how fundamentally food is interwoven into culture, and how the politics of food are so deeply intertwined into the socio-political aspects of our lives.

Sweet.  Read the book.  Eat a carrot.

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




On the cocktail menu 
last night at Oola:

"I only drink to make other people 
seem interesting."

Hee.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

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


Back on hallowed SF ground after a quick jaunt to Memphis.  (Hence, the lack of bundt.)

A few days packed full of Haydn, Handel and Clapton; strawberries, hummus & vino; humidity, rain, and southern accents; a new Bikram studio, unexpected SF faces, & the same familiar dialogue; opera, a cappella, & orchestra; and, most of all, good news and much celebration, all around.

Breakfast at left.  It's good to be home.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

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


won⋅der   [wuhn-der]

–verb (used without object)
1. to think or speculate curiously: to wonder about the origin of the solar system.
2. to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe; marvel (often fol. by at): He wondered at her composure in such a crisis.
3. to doubt: I wonder if she'll really get here.

–verb (used with object)
4. to speculate curiously or be curious about; be curious to know: to wonder what happened.
5. to feel wonder at: I wonder that you went.

–noun
6. something strange and surprising; a cause of surprise, astonishment, or admiration: That building is a wonder. It is a wonder he declined such an offer.
7. the emotion excited by what is strange and surprising; a feeling of surprised or puzzled interest, sometimes tinged with admiration: He felt wonder at seeing the Grand Canyon.
8. miraculous deed or event; remarkable phenomenon.

—Idiom
9. for a wonder, as the reverse of what might be expected; surprisingly: For a wonder, they worked hard all day.

Origin:
bef. 900; (n.) ME; OE wundor; c. D wonder, G Wunder, ON undr; (v.) ME wonderen, OE wundrian, deriv. of the n.

Related forms:
won⋅der⋅er, noun
won⋅der⋅less, adjective

Synonyms:
1. conjecture, meditate, ponder, question. 
5. marvel. 
7. surprise, astonishment, amazement, bewilderment, awe.

(And that's Magritte, of course; 1964)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

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






"Be regular and ordinary in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work."

~~  Gustave Flaubert





(And that's Robert Motherwell's Mallarme's Swan, 1961)

Monday, April 13, 2009

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



I knew I kind of had a thing for Paul Rudd because of the whole Labute/Apatow factor, but then I saw this, and all suspicions were confirmed.

Earth Rocks! (Sesame Street)

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





I walk under this street sign on alternate Tuesday mornings on my way to acupuncture, usually tired, generally pensive, often rain-flecked, undoubtedly watching the tail end of my java buzz wear off, but always grateful for this seemingly-random-but-certainly-not reminder that in wildness is the preservation of the world.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

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



Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: fresh
Mood: jazzed
Music: Louis & Ella

Yo, Easter!  So as I write it's actually still very much Good Friday, although apparently the weather here in SF isn't taking cues from Holy Week tradition, because the morning broke bright and clear.  I guess we got the misty sludgy rain yesterday in honor of Maundy Thursday.

[For the record, as I walked home from the grocery this morning bearing cake ingredients, some nice random dude said "Good morning!  How ARE you??"  And then promptly asked if I would spank him.  Welcome to SF.  It's too bad I already have plans tonight.]

So it feels like spring.  And since it's Easter and all that, I wanted to do something at least somewhat fresh and green and cheesy this week.  But I was stuck.  After consulting multiple experts (also known as "bar regulars"), I'd been gifted with many bizarro options: a baseball bundt (for Opening Day), an egg (birthing little Peeps chicks), some jelly bean action, bunny ears, etc.  Needless to say, fabulous ideas all, but time being limited with more yoga workshop all weekend, I had to shelve my plans for adhering bunny ears to the beehive-turned-Easter-egg mold.  Maybe next year.

Thanks to Derek's cookbook, I rounded up a light little green-ish recipe completely not of nature.  Which seems appropriate for this holiday of silver-wrapped eggs and marshmallow peeps and crunchy Easter bonnets.  So in honor of Sunday and Easter and spring and what-have-you, let's make a

KEY LIME BUNDT CAKE

Yup, it's green as hell.  Tony Bennett's duet with Kermit the Frog just kicked on in this old CD mix I'm listening to - "It's Not Easy Bein' Green," naturally - so I'll take that as a sign of approval from the cosmos that this neon concoction is ok in spite of its decidedly non-organic nature.

INGREDIENTS

1 package white cake mix
1 package instant lime pudding (use vanilla if you can't find lime)
1 package lime gelatin
4 eggs
 1 cup key lime yogurt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup lime juice
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; grease and flour your bundt pan.  In a large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding, gelatin, eggs, yogurt, oil, water and vanilla.  Beat for 2 minutes at medium speed.  Pour batter into the prepared pan.  Bake for 70 minutes or until it springs back after being touched lightly in the center.  Cool for 10 minutes in pan; then invert onto wire rack to cool completely.

I'm baking two cakes today - another for my workshop on Sunday, assuming it turns out decently - so will whip up the second while this one cools.  When it's cooled, prepare the glaze.  In a small bowl, combine the lime juice with just enough powdered sugar to create a medium thick glaze.  The glaze should be fluid enough to drizzle, but thick enough to drizzle slowly.

I'm weighing whether or not to roll around the corner to Walgreens and pick up some of that nasty fake green Easter basket grass for a bed for the cake.  Depends how cheesy I'm willing to be today.  We might need to sprinkle some jelly beans, too.  Decisions.  I picked up a few fake little flowers a few weeks ago that might work perfectly for this particular cake.  Let's adhere those and go from there for now.

Happy Easter.  Don't forget your bonnet.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

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


Oh geez.

There are props, and then there are props.

You saw this article in yesterday's NYT Styles section, right?  The one that's currently the most-read on the site?  The one about how people are dropping twenty bucks to roll around with their dogs on yoga mats in exchange for doggie treats?  And calling it "doga?"  Ahem.

What I wanna know is, if the economy really is so wretched right now, who's shelling out cash every week to flop around with their dogs in fake-chaturanga??

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

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


I've been thinking a great deal about what it "looks like" to live as a yogi. Not so much a psychology of ego/self/etc, but more an exploration of ways of being in the world. The kind of yogic "being" that extends far beyond saying "bliss" a lot or wearing flowy clothes or using that stereotypical monotonic "yoga voice."

Last night I had the too-short pleasure of hearing Paul Ekman and Pico Iyer trade thoughts on the Dalai Lama; more specifically, they asked: what can we as individual human beings learn from the Dalai Lama? And this morning as I reread my notes on their answers to that question, I found what sounded very much like the description of an embodied yogi.

How'd they describe him?

* As the epitome of flexibility.
* As lacking any concern for status.
* As possessing a legendarily contagious sense of humor. (Ekman said he'd "never laughed so much in my life" as when he spent time with the DL.)
* As without guile. Trusting, almost to a fault. ("He'd make a terrible poker player. He wouldn't know how to bluff. He plays with all the cards face-up.")
* As believing that it is much better to be a student than a teacher.
* As believing that it is much better to listen than to speak.
* Possessing a remarkable patience.
* A self-proclaimed heretic. Lacking in dogma.
* Fundamentally good. ("In his presence, you experience palpable goodness.")
* A grounded realist.
* Lacking in ego or self-concern.
* Like Mozart or Michael Jordan in his insistence on incessant practice. ("An Olympic athlete of compassion." - Ekman)

Iyer described the DL's ability to "communicate things just through the way he moves through the world." That, to me, sounds like the ultimate embodied yogic way of being.  Iyer emphasized the notion that everything is in flux, that transformation is "incremental, moment by moment, heart by heart," a vision of revolution through very concrete everyday means.  Here, "politics starts in the heart - and in the imagination."  This transformation can be practiced in the process of doing "brain gymnastics;" in developing awareness and compassion, we can train for happiness like it is a muscle to be built up.  

Iyer repeated that Buddhist notion that strikes me as so fundamentally lovely - the idea that "we don't suffer from original sin, but from original goodness," and that practice is thus not a process of developing, but of uncovering.  Love it.  

(Apparently KQED was broadcasting, so maybe if you're lucky, you can find a podcast there.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

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


Rebecca Traister is so good.

The culture-writer-with-a-progressive-lens processes yesterday's Johnston family Tyra Banks Show appearance on Salon today.  Traister's is the best analysis I've yet read of the embarrassingly awkward show of "breaking the silence" on the part of Bristol Palin's baby-daddy, Levi.

Traister wonders,
"Why should the Johnstons be any better, or different, from the rest of America, which is encouraged by every reality show, every top chef and next model and bachelor and swapped wife, to believe that life in this country only really makes a mark if it is lived on television?"
Yup, yup, yup.   And right there's the dart that hits the bulls-eye.  Made real through being seen. Not through being. But through being seen. The benchmark of contemporary American reality show culture.  Erghh.

Much Ado About Levi (Salon)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

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


I'm seeing Pico Iyer this Tuesday evening in conversation with Paul Ekman just down the street, and I'm so excited, I just can't wait.

Iyer's one of my favorite writers.  I first caught a glimpse of his work some ten years ago in an old Utne Reader blurb, and ever since, I've had various of his quotations scrawled here and there in notebooks and taped haphazardly to walls from Edinburgh to Ocala.  His themes - of wanderlust, globalization, identity, rootlessness, and travel, among so many others - resonate with me; I feel like his writing encapsulates so many of the nomadic and restless themes central to postmodern and queer theories without hitting you over the head with a lot of theoretical hand-waving.  

Read Iyer's lovely and readable piece, "The Nowhere Man," published in the UK's Prospect Magazine 12 years ago already, before seeing him at the Herbst.  The essay has appeared in slight variation by several names across various rags, but its soul remains the same: an exploration into the nature of cross-cultural identity, the ephemeral quality of "homelessness," the sociology of airport emotions, and what it means to be rootless or rooted in a contemporary age in which our most mundane aspects of daily life are often performed six miles above ground.  I relish Iyer's eye for complexity and nuance, irony and perspective.  

See you Tuesday night.  I'll be the one drooling.

The Nowhere Man (Prospect)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

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



Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: bright
Mood: efficient
Music: Offspring

Aaaaaand it's Saturday again.  Julio and I were cruising the aisles of Trader Joe's the other day, arms full of snap peas and tulips and strawberries, when we came across the biggest, most precarious display of coconut milk you've ever seen.  Needless to say, I had to pick up some of that action.  Ever since, I've been trying to find a way to throw it into my baking.

So this morning we're going to make not a coconut curry, nor a macaroon, but a simple, fairly minimalist little

COCONUT CREAM BUNDT CAKE

Obvious, eh?  I think it'll be just fine.  And today I'm really digging the clean, all-white aesthetic.  ("Aesthetic." Of a bundt cake.  Sheesh.  That sounds foolish.)

I found a few recipes, none of which really were to my liking, so I cobbled together some of the best of each and ended up with this.  Really fast, really easy.

INGREDIENTS

1 package white cake mix
1 package vanilla instant pudding
1 cup coconut milk
3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp coconut extract
1 1/2 cups flaked coconut

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees; grease and flour your bundt pan.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup or so of coconut into the base of the pan.  Blend cake mix, pudding, coconut milk, eggs, oil and extract for a few minutes at medium speed.  Fold in 1 1/2 cups coconut.  Pour into greased pan.  Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 10 min. on a wire rack; then invert, remove from pan and cool completely.

If you can find coconut cream pudding, use that instead.  I couldn't.  Vanilla always suffices in that case.

I haven't really used frosting in a few weeks, and wanted something fluffy today.  So we'll go for a whipped white frosting, but add 1 tsp of coconut extract for flavor, and some of the unused coconut milk to thin it enough to drizzling consistency.  Once you've frosted the cake, sprinkle a healthy layer of fresh coconut on top to finish. 

Easy.  Simple.  Coconut-milky.  There you go.

Friday, April 3, 2009

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


Another book for you to pick up, in case you don't, you know, have a job or a family or a lawn to mow or anything.

Bart D. Ehrman's Jesus, Interrupted is the latest review in Salon's ongoing series of "Conversations About Science and Faith."  Looks like it's worth your time, too, if you're not afraid of feeling a little burned when the whole thing is said and done.

Ehrman's another classic case of someone who's come up through the evangelical track and ended up an academic and an agnostic.  Sigh. Why is it that when we actually invest scholarly time and energy into studying the real historical facts going on here, it becomes so hard to maintain a genuine faith in Christianity?  (Projection, sorry.)  

It's a long interview, but a sharp one, a bit wistful, frank.  Ehrman seems to have a good sense of the state of American Christianity right now.  I wonder what the future will hold.  It seems like no matter how many of these sharp deconstructions come out, the Religious Right just keeps on firing its empty literalistic shells.

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

Yesterday I was talking with this dude about creativity.  (Coffee shops are good for dudes, and creativity, I've learned.)  He was writing, I was writing, we were both staring out the window beckoning at the Muses to come sprinkle some fairy dust in our midst, to mixed results.

He recommended this excellent short talk by Elizabeth Gilbert on artists, creativity and the nature of genius.  Now, I have kind of a love-hate reaction to Gilbert (the author of the best-seller Eat, Pray, Love), but I've gotta admit, her little spiel on anguish, art and the creative process is right on.  (I was pleasantly surprised by the calming, mellifluous character of her voice, as well.) 

If you have time, further explore the talks available on the TED website; the annual "Technology Entertainment Design" conference looks like a great way to catch 18-minute nuggets of wisdom from various cultural movers and shakers.  The Gilbert video is posted below.



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


Sunny morning
Stroll up Polk St.
Last night's make-up
Bedhead
Pint of black coffee (yes, a real pint glass)
Green grapes
Stack of yoga books
Inappropriately short skirt for 9:30 a.m.
Roos sneakers
Ratty old red sweater
Aging laptop

What more could a girl want on a Friday in spring?

USA Today featured Donna Karan the other day.  The DKNY fashion designer has donated a big chunk of change to new initiatives using yoga and meditation as alternative treatments for cancer.  Karan lost several beloveds to cancer.  I'd read about her interests in raw foods and yoga before, but am glad to see she's using her empathetic and financial resources to fund this kind of work.  No hard-hitting journalism to be found here - it's USA Today, people! - but it's a decent read nonetheless.  Look to see more of this happening as the Boomers age and oncologists fail to address the mind-body-spirit aspects of the cancer battle.

On that note, if you've any interest in further pursuing the notion of yoga as medicine (and you should), there are a few books I'm reading right now that I've been recommending to everyone I see.  Next time you're game to drop a few bucks at the bookstore, please do pick up
  • Dr. Timothy McCall's Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing.  Quality, easy-to-read material on asanas, meditation, master teachers and history.  Read for a basic look into yoga as "a systematic technology to improve the body, understand the mind, and free the spirit."
  • Erich Schiffman's Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness.  Great asana descriptions, photos, and pranayama techniques.  Nice appendix of yoga routines in the back of the book, as well.
  • Michael Stone's The Inner Tradition of Yoga: A Guide to Yoga Philosophy for the Contemporary Practitioner.  Read this one a few weeks ago and it's a really solid overview of basic yoga philosophy that doesn't get too lost in overwhelming Hindu metaphysics.  Check it out for a quick read (and short chapters - my favorite!).
I sort of thought it was obvious that yoga was rooted in a certain philosophical tradition.  Then the other day, I was chatting with a dude at this very coffee shop - a smart guy, no fool - and he was stunned to see the Stone book sitting on my table.  Couldn't believe that yoga was more than an asana system to be practiced at the gym alongside the barbells and the treadmills.

Really?!?  Wow.  There's definitely work to be done.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

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


Words matter.  Words really matter.  We know this, right?

Semantics are underrated.  If I could go back and do six more bachelor's degrees, one of them would be in Linguistics (right after Art History and Kinesiology and Vocal Performance and...).  Words are powerful.  We think they're just these harmless little guys that make up sentences, but they're laden with all kinds of history and social power and cultural baggage.  That's why I say "anti-choice" instead of "pro-life;" that's why "oriental" is now obsolete; that's why Bush's naming of his "Homeland Security" department as such sent a chill up my spine.  (Nazi Germany, anyone?)

Anyway.  The NYT has a quick piece today on how the Obama administration is stealthily reshaping the language used in the current public dialogue and abandoning the baggage-laden rhetoric of the Bush Era.  Think words like "surge," "patriot," and "war on terror."  Whew.  I love this.  Super-interesting subtle way of restructuring the national mood and scraping away the remnants of the culture of fear built so deviously by Bush and Co.  Read the article.

On that note: I discovered the most fantastic little toy this morning.  Wordle.net.  You can plug in any combination of text, hit "Go," and out pops this lovely little piece of word-art (called a "word cloud") which you can then manipulate with any number of fonts and colors.  I dig it.  Go.  Play.  It's the best.  (This one at left is a product of the text from the article mentioned above.)  The program weights the text such that the most-commonly used words are featured most prominently in the art.  Sweet.