Thursday, October 29, 2009

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

Tuesday night I snagged some killer last-minute tickets for the SF Opera's production of Salome. And - whew. Talk about scandalous.

The opera is Oscar Wilde by way of Richard Strauss by way of the Old Testament. It's a melange of lust and violence and incest and erotic torture and well, just plain ol' regular torture. As in: beheadings. Let's just say the show is perfect for Halloween week. In the course of an action-packed hour and 45 minutes, you get seduction, prophecy, sacrifice, nudity, and - wait for it - necrophilia.

Yeah. So girlfriend Salome - Herod's sexy and scandalous stepdaughter - ends up dragging (her unrequited lover) John the Baptist's severed [bleeding] head around stage, singing to it, spooning with it, and yes, eventually making out with it, until Papa Herod, dirty and leering as he might be, decides she's loony-tunes and needs to get taken out by the bloody scythe that just separated ol' Johnny-Poo from his noggin. And that's just the last ten minutes.

It's a wild ride, and yes, certainly a scandalous one, but also one not to be missed. This ain't yer grandma's opera. That John has quite the baritone, and that Salome, well, I've never seen another mezzo-soprano who a) looks so hot in scantily-clad white chiffon, and b) can dance her socks off like any good musical theater pro.

Get yourselves to the opera house. The show runs tomorrow night at 8 and Sunday at 2. Much better than throwing on your hastily-made duct-tape Balloon Boy costume and hitting up the neighborhood bars. Sexier, too.

San Francisco Opera: Salome

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

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

Somehow I managed to miss the NYT Magazine's Food Issue a few weeks back, and along with it, Jonathan Safran Foer's excellent article offering his case for vegetarianism.

The piece is an excerpt from Foer's upcoming book, Eating Animals, and it's worth a few minutes of your time. In contrast with some of the irritatingly holier-than-thou veggie activists out there, Foer's writing translates as self-deprecating, funny, and refreshingly rational. He's self-aware in a defusing kind of way; even the committed meat-eater can read Foer's writing and relax, knowing that he doesn't have to feel attacked, that he's in sympathetic company. Foer writes from an admittedly ambivalent background; he acknowledges the reality of intangibles like taste, memory, and pleasure as challenges to the effort to go veg.

It's interesting to me that after years of wishy-washy flirtations with vegetarianism, it was the birth of Foer's first child that really brought him and his wife into a committed meat-free lifestyle. I'm not surprised. The swaggering faux-masculinity with which people usually boast of their meat obsessions strikes me as embarrassingly naive and unconsidered; the empty shell of a case for eating meat (taste! pleasure!) is quickly punctured when real-world considerations like the destruction of the environment and the consumption of feces and free drugs become realities in the lives of our own offspring.* Suddenly the idea that yer own kid might not have clean water or fresh air someday, or might be consuming cow shit or chicken brains, makes the reality hit home in a new way.

Read the article. It's as charming and non-combative a call to vegetarianism as you're going to find. I'm glad to call Foer a fellow comrade.

Against Meat (NYT Magazine)

*Matt Hearn, I still love you, in spite of - or perhaps because of - your unwavering commitment to bacon. And I don't think you're naive or unconsidered, though definitely a paragon of swaggering masculinity. (Duh.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

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

prana ~ Vital air; life breath; vitality; the upward, expanding, blossoming movement characteristic of inhaling. From the verb root "an," meaning to breathe, plus "pra," meaning forth.

pranava ~ To be new, again and again. See also: Om.
See also: beginner's mind.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

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

Throwing up a few self-indulgent photos on this insanely sunny late autumn afternoon. An attempt to give a little sense of the lush GREEN here in my new private jungle. Talk about a muse! Prana oozing out of every corner.

A little garden sanctuary. So quiet. Birdsong outside. In the heart of the City. The cable car clanging out front. Strong perpetual light. I'm hooked.

Digging the great 1920s period details. My plants like them, too.

View from the yoga mat. Hardwood floors meant for early morning yoga practice. Kind of a modern-day yogic Rothko, eh? (Ok, it's a stretch. Har har.)

Dahlias. Blooming in season right now. Up there with peonies as some of my favorites.

First attempt at breaking in the new kitchen. It only took me 10 minutes to figure out how to light the damn oven. After that, smooth sailing. The coffee pot above left played a key role in making that happen.

Since it's autumn and this is an easy recipe - one of my never-fails, I whipped up a Maple Pecan cake yesterday morning for the clamoring masses. Thanks to TJ's killer tunes and a bright quiet morning and the late addition of a few pothos leaves and a broken-stemmed dahlia from the bunch, it turned out well. I couldn't help but notice how the dahlia looks not unlike a lotus flower. Just sayin'. Lotus = bloom, change, growth, life. I dig the symbolism.

Orange polyester, agave nectar hardwood, spray-painted burgundy flats. Hello, autumn.

Friday, October 23, 2009

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

I've been reading Steve Martin's autobiography, Born Standing Up. The man is, of course, as interesting and shy and thoughtful and artistic in this particular piece of writing as he is in his other novels, plays and screenplays.

The photo at left is included in the book. Um. Amazing. (And unrecognizable.)

Any comedian who can at once throw down on the banjo, rock some badass turquoise jewelry and a long 1970s shag 'do, and unself-consciously toss around the words "existentialism" and "ontology" while discussing modern art and classical philosophy is fine by me. How can you not love the man??

Thursday, October 22, 2009

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

Saw this the other night, and to say the film left me sick to my stomach wouldn't be doing it justice. Ugh.

You can always count on Michael Moore to pull out a few tried-and-true tricks in his films: lots of charming archival footage, lots of good music, lots of in-yer-face confrontation attempts with powerful people, and plenty of populist sentiment. I've gotta respect the guy and his ever-expanding body of work. My little commie heart warms a little every time he rants about workers' rights and the peoples' revolution.

It's certainly not an uplift of a film, that's for sure; in spite of the fact that Moore ends on a "power-to-the-people" kind of note, you walk away feeling heavy with exhaustion at the overwhelmingly complex institutionalized framework that has allowed for people like Goldman Sachs's Hank Paulson to run the Treasury Dept. with an eye toward corporate profit.

Favorite part? When Moore ties in the progressive Christian element, arguing that the conflation of profit with spirituality (a la the conservative evangelical juggernaut that preaches good ol' capitalist values as somehow at all related to a Christic model) is fundamentally flawed. Good on you, Michael Moore. We need more people like you who aren't afraid to say this out loud.

Stay for the credits, more sobering statistics, and some excellent Woody Guthrie action. And then march yourself right around the corner for a stiff drink to counter the disenchantment.

Michael Moore's Capitalism Goes for Broke (Time)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

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

Once again proud to be living in one of the most progressive cities in the world. (You should see our cute little individual composting buckets.)

Food Recycling Law a Hit in San Francisco (NPR)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air: a raw, foggy day at the beach.

This foggy morning seems as good as any to tell you some exciting news: my first Yoga Journal article will be published in the next issue, December '09, due on (national!) newsstands any day now. Really!

The piece draws together themes from yogic philosophy and Ayurvedic theory, interwoven with bits and pieces of my own narrative experiences with baking over the last year and a half. Thanks to this humble little site for being a bit of a contributor, via its early Bundt Cake Saturdays, which encouraged my regular baking (read: meditation) practice.

We'll leave it there for now. But please do keep your eyes peeled for the December issue, which can be found at any major bookstores (but especially your local indies), and pick one up to read my little story. I'm pretty chuffed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

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

Stevie Sondheim's going to be in the 'hood again this weekend. Yesterday's Datebook had a quickie round-up of his recent goings-on. Did you realize the man - the legend - is pushing 80?

Kicking myself for missing him when he was at the Herbst last year. Can't wait for the upcoming Trevor Nunn revival of "A Little Night Music" starring CZJ and Angela Lansbury (mentioned at the end of the article). Talk about a dream-team.

Sondheim Takes the Stage (SFGate)

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

I knew I liked Don Draper, but then I read this brief Q&A with Jon Hamm over at Reader's Digest (erm, I know) and realized how very much I like him. Hamm lost both parents young, seems mellow, grounded, low-maintenance. And I love, love his take on fear/worry toward the end of the interview:

Q. You seem very well adjusted for a Hollywood guy. What's your secret?

A. I have a low-impact way of approaching life. I don't mind heights. I love flying. Bugs don't freak me out. If you're worried about something like, say, hair in your food, it ain't the hair that's going to kill you—it's the worry.

Amen to that.

Q&A: Mad Men Actor Jon Hamm (RD)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

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

There's an obese cat that waddles around in the garden outside my new window. Birds, too. Let's start there.

I've been listening to Neko Case non-stop this weekend while taking care of the busywork of moving: the address-changing (online magic!) and the unpacking and whatnot. She's killer, of course, and you should know her stuff; I was so disappointed to miss her set a few weeks back at Hardly Strictly Blueglass.

Case's "Magpie to the Morning" is one of my favorites. The whole thing's good, but there's a line in particular that runs on repeat in my mind, toward the beginning, when she wails that

He laughed under his breath/
Because you thought that you could outrun sorrow

What spot-on poetry. How often do most of us try - one way or another - to foolishly "outrun sorrow?" Oh, the ways I could count, both what I see in the people around me and what I know I'm guilty of myself. That's why yoga's patient reminder to "just stay" has always felt so radical to me: "just stay" in a leg-shaking asana, stay in a difficult feeling, stay in an uncomfortable moment. Ride it out. Instead of trying to outrun it.*

Listen to the whole thing. There's a live version floating around on YouTube somewhere. Google it up. Neko's great.

* Yogic theory's everywhere, if you just keep your eyes open for it. Wouldn't you say?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

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

It is late on a Tuesday night and the rain's finally stopped outside and the air is balmy and I am trying to remember how to breathe. I am a big bundle of anxiety. I am racing heart and whipping mind and short inhales and twisting gut. I am all that yoga is supposed to make me not.

In the span of 24 hours I've seen a place, sold my soul for its garden view, slept fitfully, marched to the bank in galoshes and yellow raincoat, and signed the next year of my life away for a little patch of hardwood and city just off the cable car line. For six years now I've hovered here in a warm wooden red-colored art- and antique-filled bay windowed flat on Sacramento Street, right on the down-slope of Nob Hill, and now, suddenly, I'm packing up and sorting and consolidating and tossing, preparing to trade these old boards for new ones.

It's so much more emotional than I expected. I turned 30 this year, knew from this experience and that that I'm an Official Adult now, grown-up and all that shit, IRA and renter's insurance and what-have-you, and part of that shift has been realizing an urgent need for a space and a silence all my own, a nook of a place that I can fill with plants and books and music and do yoga in the early morning sunlight and drink coffee and write trite inflammatory bullshit that no one will ever read.

It's different in the city, this searching for a place to lay one's head; the rates are sky high and the possibility of owning a pipe dream for anyone but the very well-off, and I've been reasonably resigned to renting for the duration of my life here, in spite of waste and the frustration. But rents are relatively low now and supply high and it's time and this little gem of a garden flat kind of fell into my lap unexpectedly on a blue-skied Monday morning in October and so today in the midst of torrential rain and hurricane gales I hauled my grown-up lady coat and cloche over to sign the papers. And now the next few days will be a whirl of phone calls and movers and boxes and whatnot.

And god, the clinging. The attachment. The unexpected yogic lessons coming out of my ears. I sat in my new yoga philosophy class last night and Chase talked about one-pointed focus and calming the mind and directing the thoughts and being here now and very ironically, of course, all I could do was sit there and make checklists and think shit, will all my shit fit in this new place and what about the sunlight and what about my yoga mats and where the hell did I get so many books and where will I stash the picnic basket and the piano? And on and on ad infinitum while my body sat in one room and my mind in another. And that mind today clings to memories of this place that has been my home for so many golden years, that has seen thesis chapters and Ford Festivas and afternoon sunlight in the bay window and whores underneath in the wee hours and earthquakes and most of all, most of all, my father for a very brief moment, my sick dying father who was here for a half a day, long enough to eat dinner in Chinatown and climb Nob Hill past Grace Cathedral and walk through my empty wooden apartment and turn to me understatedly and say, "Well, Rach, it looks like you've got a good little home here." And just for that my heart breaks on leaving this place, this place whose floors that absent father once tread, knowing that it is the last home he will ever see or smell or approve of.

Clinging. We're not supposed to cling to things or people or places or concepts or ideas. Buddhism teaches it. Yogic theory teaches it. You have to let go, release, detach. I thought I was so good at this. Non-materialistic, anti-consumptive, living simply, blah blah blah. What a smack in the arrogant face this anxiety is to that. Clinging to hopes and holiday parties and men and memories, all in this space that held so many before me and will hold more after I leave it. Strange to think others will live here, here in this space that feels so much my own. In the city somehow there is a more transient sensibility about homes; you get used to trading up and trading down according to whim, and somehow I've managed to avoid that heretofore; but now it's new light and different street sounds and the clanging of a cable car bell outside and palms in the morning and a new slant on things, a new wooden floor to get my bare feet accustomed to.

How easy to try to cling to the status quo. How interesting that excitement over new beginnings can so quickly morph into sorrow for the abandonment of what was. As if the physical presence could ever promise permanence of what has long disappeared anyway, old selves and old goals and old versions of our lives.

Perpetual flux. Quantum physics affirms it. Why do we resist it? Because of the way it reminds us of aging and the passage of time? Because of the strange sorrow that comes of sorting through old things, decade-old clothes that smell of outdated perfume and expired paramours and the knotty whiff of people and places so long gone?

The cable car keeps running back and forth, endlessly up and down California Street, on an endless track going nowhere. And the hair greys. And the joints ache. And people who were once present are now only apparitions. And the sky stays. And the light stays. And there is a sickness to all of that perpetuity that curdles the stomach and wets the cheeks.

It is harder than I expected.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air: a raw, foggy day at the beach.

Sheesh, what a busy time in the City right now: Fleet Week, Litquake, Italian Heritage Festival, Oracle Convention. Let's just say it's hell getting a cab.

Much afoot here in spite of the cold and the chill; the weather dudes are calling for a big winter storm system to hit this evening, and while of course that's very relative - a joke of a little wind and rain compared to what most of you call "winter" - it'll mean grey and wet for the next few days. I like. Feels like autumn.

Been on a serious raw stretch for the last week, 100% gluten-sugar-dairy-free, which has naturally meant mad energy, glowing skin and otherworldly placidness. The revelation of this latest bonanza has been the Go Hunza* Raw Pecan Pie. It's obscenely overpriced, at $4.99 a pop, but it's also obscenely delicious. I never thought I'd be able to forget the culinary bliss that is the traditional cinnamon roll, but these totally unprocessed raw approximations are dead ringers for the heavy old soppy cinnamon bun that sticks to your teeth and then your gut.

Ingredients: pecans, dates, almonds, agave, apricot kernels, cinnamon, himalayan salt & vanilla.

You'll note the lack of sugar. Key. The Chron ran another scathing anti-sugar article yesterday. It's worth a read for a reminder of WHY THE HELL DO WE PUT THIS SHIT IN OUR BODIES? Seems to me it's less a matter of moderation and more a matter of just cutting it out completely. Really not worth the taste, when bad skin, depleted energy and mood swings are the trade-off.

Experts Set Sugar Guidelines to Fight Obesity (SFGate)

*Just make sure not to enter your email address if you check out the Go Hunza website. I made that mistake and now am the lucky recipient of approx. 82 Viagra and penis-enlargement emails every day. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

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

Last night I saw the new French film, Coco Avant Chanel. The morning after, I still feel steeped in little black dresses, fake pearls, Alexander Desplat's melancholy score, and Audrey Tautou's dark sad eyes.

Didn't expect anything from it in the way of revelation, certainly nothing approaching social commentary, and was surprised to find both in this ostensibly run-of-the-mill biopic. Chanel's life was tragic and charmed, her style a product of her no-nonsense sensibility, her unapologetic unsentimentality, and her practical eye for found art.

Naturally, I enjoyed the period aesthetics, the austerity, the flapper bobs, the minimalism; but I was also surprisingly taken by the nuanced portrayals of Chanel's career-enhancing love affairs, and the ways in which she was able to make a career out of her craft, applying her innate intuitive senses of style and of self toward a self-sustaining artistic profession as a woman in the 1920s and beyond. (Not to mention the melancholy portrait of a doomed love affair that endured and yet, was not meant to be.)

Read Mick LaSalle's Chron review here; then traipse over to the Guardian for a more disturbing look at the conveniently-untold story of Chanel's Nazi love affairs. (Erghh - that's awkward.)

Coco Meets Her Match in Tautou (SFGate)
Coco Chanel: Enduring Style, Fairytale Story - Just Don't Mention the Nazi Lover (Guardian)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

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

I've rediscovered pin curls.

You know what I'm talking about. That vintage/retro look sported by stylish dames from the 1920s on, but particularly in the 1940s and 1950s. All those old photos of women with their curls wrapped up in a scarf and tied in a knot on top of their head? Yeah. They were waiting for their pin curls to dry.

A mother of a friend taught me how to do these on my own [boring, straight, thin, mousy] hair back in like 1995 on some dance line trip, and since then, I've fallen back on the natural boingy-boing method for theater productions and costuming. It's amazing what you can do with just a little damp hair, a few bobby pins, and a couple of hours.

Last week I was headed to a show and wanted something wild(er), so I grabbed my box o' pins and wrapped up my limp hair. Within an hour: immediate personality! Have been doing pin curls nearly every day since. And it's ever-so-much more fun than the usual blah crap.

Google it up for any number of instructions on how to do pin curls; they're incredibly easy, much easier than any of the directions would have you believe. And then revel in shaking out your Rita Hayworth vintage movie star curls. They'll last all day.

Monday, October 5, 2009

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

Ok. Interested to hear your thoughts on this whole David Letterman thing. I, for one, can't be bothered with all the media fallout and accompanying drama.

Letterman always struck me as comfortably iconoclastic. Married late, after being partnered for 20-odd years; had a kid out of wedlock a few years prior to that; remained his acerbic self and just kind of did his own thing. I can respect that. Always have.

So all of these cultural commentators are talking about the "power dynamics" implicit in his romantic liaisons and how "sexual harassment" was potentially involved and will he get fired? and blah blah blah. And I don't know exactly why, but I. Don't. Care. People have flings. Stop acting like it's an aberration. Long-term sexual monogamy is unrealistic and unsustainable. It's not a power thing or a coercion thing or some big dramatic hoo-hah. It's a matter of two people being attracted to one another and acting on it and Dave wasn't even necessarily in a closed relationship (do any of us really know the intricacies of his arrangement with Regina?) and that's life, my friends, and maybe this, along with the John Edwards scandal and the John Ensign stuff and blah-di-blah is just more and more evidence that our cultural model of long-term sexual monogamy is obsolete. Hmmm? (Have you seen Mad Men? There was no golden era of monogamy. This is no modern development. People were cheating on their spouses hundreds of years and myriads of cultures ago. And isn't it about time that we separate the biological urge to copulate from the admittedly very necessary socio-economic unit that is the nuclear family based in long-term partnership? Why can't we have both? Is sexual monogamy really so intrinsic to the successful stand-alone economic unit that raises the next generation while providing a realistic semblance of tribal structure for children and a means of caring for the elderly?)

That said, there's also this very irritating interview over at Salon right now with the authors of a new book on why women have sex, who have purportedly done all this revelatory research to answer that question. The article reads very generically, I have to say; I didn't find anything there that I haven't read a million times before, and the whole thing left me with a sour taste in my mouth, particularly the bit about how hookup culture ostensibly looks consistent across gender lines but maybe it's really about women having someone to call when they need a lightbulb changed. Ahem. Excuse me? What planet are you from?

Read the article. Not sure why it rubbed me the wrong way, but I guess I'm just tired of these attempts to explain culturally-constructed, complex sexual behavior. It's not all biology, it's not all culture, it's a messy mix of the two, and that's why we end up with drama like Dave's: because we try to impose socially-constructed frameworks on biologically-ancient drives.

And that is all I have to say about that.

Why Do Women Have Sex? (Salon)

Friday, October 2, 2009

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

Bundt Cake Saturday! On Friday.

Morning: bright
Mood: determined
Music: Verdi

Last night I spent a few charmed hours at the opera house for the SF Opera's Il Trovatore. Anvils hammering, gypsies spinning, a few bare chests strutting, and a rotating stage - the same one used a few years ago for their Barber of Seville. Long, but nice.

First weekend of October already, and things are afoot. Burbling. Apples are back in season, have been for a few weeks now, which means I've been pretty much living on them. Discovered the tangy revelation that is the honeycrisp apple a few weeks ago via a characteristically overpriced display at Whole Foods, and a large portion of my paycheck has been funneled that way since. Organic, Washington-grown, crispy, fantastic. You'll never look at a Fuji or a Braeburn again after trying one of these guys.

So I had a stash of honeycrisps in my fridge and not a lot of time to plan a recipe last weekend. The result? This pseudo-original creation that melds some of the good fall flavors out there right now. I tossed in two of my favorite fruits, added a few old reliable spices, and came up with this


Easy, quick, seasonal. Delish.


1 yellow cake mix
1 box instant vanilla pudding
4 eggs
1 container vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 teas all spice
1/2 teas cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch cloves
1 honeycrisp apple, diced
6 oz dried cranberries

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees; grease and flour your bundt pan. In a large bowl, mix together cake mix, pudding, eggs, yogurt, oil, water, and spices. Beat with electric mixer for 2 minutes until well-mixed. Chop up your apple into small pieces (leaving the peel on); fold chopped apple and cranberries into batter and stir until decently-mixed. Pour batter into prepared bundt pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes in pan; invert on wire rack and cool completely.

Most recipes using apples will recommend that you peel the apple. I say: fuck that. Leave the peel on for added color and crunch, not mention a little extra fiber. It'll save you a lot of time and effort, as well.

I intended to add ginger, too, but couldn't find mine, so went without. Trust your intuition on this and run with your favorite spices (or toasted nuts, as well). You can't really go wrong.

You can easily get away with just some powdered sugar to finish this cake. I went the other route, being short on time, and drizzled some warm cream cheese frosting on top. Finished it with a few clippings from the bouquet of Cosmos on the coffee table.

And voila. There's your spice cake. Happy fall.