Friday, July 23, 2010

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

Excellent feature on Anusara yoga founder John Friend in this Sunday's upcoming NYT Magazine. The piece hits on all the hot topics in American yoga right now: branding and commodification, status symbols and the messy project of self-marketing, the phenomenon of rockstar teachers and how that fits with the ethics of yoga, philosophy and spirituality vs. athleticism and physicality, etc.

I'm not hugely familiar with the Anusara style, although its close alignment [pun intended] with the Iyengar tradition tends to make me think I've made the right choice in sticking with the more fluid, dance-like vinyasa. But I'll admit I'm seriously intrigued by this article's respective comparisons of Friend to cheesy evangelical slickster Joel Osteen and that icon of capitalistic self-improvement himself, Horatio Alger. Erghh. I wiggled uncomfortably in my seat a little on seeing both of those references.

Yipes. I could write a dissertation or six here. But I won't. So just read it.

The Yoga Mogul (NYT Magazine)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

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

Things aren't all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsayable than all other things are works of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our
own small, transitory life.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

(And Nina Simone, natch.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

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

in·spire   /ɪnˈspaɪər/
–verb (used with object)
1. to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence: His courage inspired his followers.

2. to produce or arouse (a feeling, thought, etc.): to inspire confidence in others.

3. to fill or affect with a specified feeling, thought, etc.: to inspire a person with distrust.

4. to influence or impel: Competition inspired her to greater efforts.

5. to animate, as an influence, feeling, thought, or the like, does: They were inspired by a belief in a better future.

6. to communicate or suggest by a divine or supernatural influence: writings inspired by god.

7. to guide or control by divine influence.

8. to prompt or instigate (utterances, acts, etc.) by influence, without avowal of responsibility.

9. to give rise to, bring about, cause, etc.: a philosophy that inspired a revolution.

10. to take (air, gases, etc.) into the lungs in breathing; inhale.

11. Archaic.
a. to infuse (breath, life, etc.) by breathing (usually fol. by into).
b. to breathe into or upon.

so mad inspired these days, by so very much.

[please note the above bold-faced prana-riffic breath connection. yes.]

that lead singer. aaron's watermelon-eating contest in the shadow of the golden gate bridge. parsva bakasana. elle's spirit. plastiki not sinking. fedoras and newsboys and suspenders, sprinkling that most hip and most hot crowd at stern grove yesterday with vintage fabulosity at every turn. the dude on the blanket over reading his tome with one hand while jamming out to the beat and drinking rye whiskey with the other. music, and technology, and community, and possibility - mad, unfolding, spiraling-open possibility. being high raw vegan and feeling the concomitant buzz of unleashed prana cracking things open. letting go. of so much. easier that way. sexy trombonists. louise brooks. matthew b crawford. nina, and her fight. yoga. rusty. stacy, and her fire, and her strength, in spite of it all. new batteries. caravan palace. austin's friday funkdown. autumn. scat - oh dear god, scat, yes!! andrea. the new yorker. josephine baker. papaya art. the shooting gallery, on larkin. marlene dietrich. shambhala sun. yoga on the labyrinth, at twilight. rachel gladman. claudia in her salmon scarf. a swanky dinner with the beloveds tomorrow night. baby bundts for birthdays, with liquor, and flowers, and too much frosting. the fact that my whole living room smells like eucalyptus and redwoods because of that unwashed blanket from yesterday. jeff and jeff, at the bar last night, and their questions, and their kindness. kd lang. jaclyn. wanderlust. padme and shrikula and so many excellent studios opening, fired and fueled by the fire and fuel of so many passionate people. steve ross. silence. the women's building, and free open-hearted yoga for the people who deserve it most, and the audre lorde room, and sunlit acoustics. the waiting piano in the other room. a cool foggy morning for catching up. mikah back from china. tom and brian planning tibet. an impending trade of coasts, and toes in the atlantic ocean with greg and toni and baby rach and babiest-of-all, clara. fresh grapefruit cocktails. llama at the wayfare overlooking oysters and sipping bubbly. kenosis.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

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

New favorite muse: Josephine Baker.

Jazz Era singer, sensational beauty, erotic dancer, Francophile ex-pat, Civil Rights activist, muse of writers and painters, member of the French Resistance, multi-ethnic adoptive mother of 12, general socio-political, cultural & sexual outlaw. And all this out of humble beginnings in Missouri, no less.

Ya gotta admit, girlfriend was pretty rad.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

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

Oh, Howl movie, how do I love thee?

Let me count the ways:
1. James Franco
2. Obscenity
3. Vintage duds
4. Radical literature
5. Jon Hamm
6. James Franco
7. Stylish art direction
8. Mary Louise Parker
9. James Franco in retro frames
10. Progressive cinema
11. Beat Generation
12. Indie film festivals
13. Countercultural vibes
14. James Franco
15. James Franco
16. James Franco

Howl Starring James Franco ~ Official Movie Trailer (YouTube)

Monday, July 12, 2010

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

I am the rest between two notes,
which are somehow always in discord
because death's note wants to climb over -
but in the dark interval, reconciled,
They stay here trembling.
And the song goes on, beautiful.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Friday, July 9, 2010

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

Serious baking mode here at Chez Rach. I'm whipping up two birthday cakes for my friend Janell's big bash tomorrow evening - one Maple Walnut (delish, a true winner), the other Chocolate Coconut Cream with fresh strawberries - so today's all baking, tomorrow's all frosting and flowers. And the flour-covered action is all accompanied by the soundtrack of one most excellent Mr. Willie Nelson.

How the hell'd I manage to miss his American Classic album when it came out last fall? What a dream. I've been enraptured by Willie's killer cover of Ain't Misbehavin' since it came on one mellow afternoon behind the bar a few weeks ago, and ever since, I can't get enough. This album - along with his older Stardust, from about ten years ago - hits on so many of those late, great songs from the American songbook: Blue Skies, Don't Get Around Much Anymore, Because of You, Baby, It's Cold Outside (with Norah Jones), On the Street Where You Live, Moonlight in Vermont, The Nearness of You, Georgia on My Mind... etc. etc. etc.

So I belatedly picked up both albums Wednesday night after yoga, and have been sashaying around my kitchen to Willie's low growl ever since. Talk about great inspiration for whipping up these two confections. My heart's nearest and dearest to Ain't Misbehavin', but the only online version I can find is an unfortunate paean to the redneck Confederate Britney Spears-esque Southern softcore porn beauty queen; yeah, you think I'm joking; I'm not. I just can't post that shit here. So watch it on your own, if you dare. And in the meantime, settle for this second-best: a fab duet (and you know how I love me a good duet!) between She of the Piano Keys, Diana Krall, and Willie himself, crooning away to If I Had You.

These cakes are gonna taste that much better for all the maple syrup-voiced music that birthed them. Have a great weekend. And heeeeere's Willie:

If I Had You ~ Willie Nelson, featuring Diana Krall (YouTube)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

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

Hey, did you see this fab Google doodle yesterday? The 6th would have been Frida's birthday, so in honor of The Badass One, we got this. Made me smile.

Frida Kahlo's Birthday Presence: A Google doodle tribute (Guardian)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

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

"May all that emerges from me be beautiful."

What a great prayer, right?

Read this sharp New Yorker profile of Yves Klein - French modern artist, fellow blue-lover, interesting dude who died far too young, all the way back in 1962 - and find in it yet another inspiration to craft a life for yourself that is iconoclastic, artistic, beautiful. The guy was spiritual in a vaguely-religious kind of way, along with being bizarro in that fabulously obscure Warhol-Beuys-Hirst-esque modern artist kind of mold.

I've long loved Klein's famously-patented "International Klein Blue" works; the SFMoMA features one of his big, splashy, undeniably erotic body-art pieces. Once you know one, it's easy to recognize any others you come across. But did you know the guy was a master judo practitioner, or that he died of a heart attack at 34? Me neither. Art critic Peter Schjeldahl describes Klein's bluesy inspiration:
He dated his aesthetic from a day at the beach in Nice, in 1947, when he “signed the sky.” (He hated birds, he said, “because they tried to bore holes in my greatest and most beautiful work.”)
Ohhhh, sky. Yes. Now it all makes sense. And that provides a kind of lens through which to see the body of his work. But what's really interesting to me is how Schjeldahl touches on Klein's religiosity in his review of the current retrospective show:
But I think the inescapable key to Klein’s character is his religiosity. It set him apart, and still does, in the resolutely secular parishes—commercial, institutional, and academic—of contemporary art. He never spoke of God, that I know of; a compunction of intellectual taste seems to have forbidden it. Certainly, he was more Gnostic than fundamentalist in the drift of his beliefs. But there’s no separating the improbable power of conviction in his art from the worship of a cosmic principle. The problem points up a recurring blind spot in the reception of modern art, as when scholars duly note the Theosophical faith of Kandinsky or Mondrian and then make as little as possible of it, concerning the work. And let it be recalled that Andy Warhol, as revolutionary an artist in effect as Klein was in aspiration, was an observant Catholic, too. Will any thesis writer pluck this low-hanging fruit?
I wonder if Schjeldahl knows about all the work done on that little hill over in Berkeley in terms of Jasper Johns, Warhol, et al's, religiosity? Because those theses have been written, by scholars like Dillenberger and Adams and whatnot; some of the most enjoyable hours of my grad work in theology and material culture were spent poring over Diebenkorns and Warhols and Pollocks at the various Bay Area art museums that provide sanctuary for their scintillating and often heart-rending works.

I love this vaguely-subversive religious angle - it lends such depth to the sometimes ostensibly 2-dimensional art - and wish more critics would make use of it. Whether it's a matter of finding the sacred in art - as manifestation of an experience of or flirtation with the divine - or even using art to note the utter emptiness, the lack, the void that is life, that bleak existentialist observation of the absence of meaning in beauty - it's always an important undercurrent. For me, it's the difference between walking away from a work untouched or being shaken by a reminder of what it feels like to be alive. And isn't that the whole point?

Catch the Klein show if you're in DC. Soak up some of that blue for those of us who can't.

True Blue: An Yves Klein Retrospective (New Yorker)

Monday, July 5, 2010

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

Steve's phalaenopsis from nine
months ago, in second bloom,
on my windowsill.

Friday, July 2, 2010

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

I took a deep breath and listened to the old
brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.

~ Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Thursday, July 1, 2010

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

My rad friend Kate had an art show last night. "If I were a boy..." was the theme. It was fascinating, light, thought-provoking. Mini-cupcake strewn. Intimate, personal; perfect.

And that would be Austin and me doing our best boy-girl impressions at left. He rocked the suspenders and a fedora; I wore a kicky dress and carried a clutch. We played our scripted parts - at least, to all outside appearances, we did.

A few of us had dinner after and talked queer theory and yoga and what-have-you. And that, coupled with the wanky biodynamically-farmed wine and night air and ridiculous cashew cheese (ohhh, San Francisco) made the whole evening just that much richer, more contextual, more real. But what really struck me about the whole experience was the getting ready beforehand. Never before have I been so aware of the performance art involved in being a chick. I mean, I've written pretty extensively here about performativity and fashion and dramaturgy and all that Butlerian-Goffman-esque sociological self-presentation shit before; the whole radical-yet-surprisingly-obvious idea that life's one big theater, that we're always performing, sculpting a character, that we're all always in drag, that given the utter lack of essential anything attributable to existence in a postmodern reality, we're always putting on and taking off new identities, new constructs, new forms, regardless of gender or sexuality or whatever.

So there I was at 7 0'clock, fresh from Bikram, sweaty as hell, out of the shower, so highly aware of all the contrived art that goes into the self-presentation of womanhood. And in its own way, the whole process became a strange kind of meditation, a deliberate practice of sorts; I was present in the experience, aware of it, mindful of every detail, in ways I've not been in some time. The shampoo and conditioner and pink razor and wet tangled hair and hairdryer and mascara and eyeliner and I tell you, I've never been so damn conscious of the heavily-laden irony of every tiny bobby pin as I swept my hair up out of my face (hands knowing exactly what to do, how to do it, unthinkingly, in five minutes, due to years and years of practicing at this "being a girl" thing) and clipped on two vintage earrings and slipped on that chunky blue bracelet and found my rings on the kitchen counter where I'd left them on washing dishes.

This "being a chick" thing, it's theater, of course, on the small-scale stage that is our daily social dance; it's no different than when I put on my Cinderella stage make-up or my Polly Baker tap shoes; it's slipping into a role, playing a part, being something that is a product whether the careful packaging process involved is conscious or not. I'd argue, of course, that most of us go about this daily drag-doing utterly lacking in self-awareness, not thinking deliberately about the shoes that "make" us men, or the tights that "make" us women. And as much as I've done it a bazillion times, as much as I grew up learning so well, too well, how to be a girl, what it means to wear clever accessories and sparkly make-up and tousled hair, how early-on you develop the curling iron agility and braiding skills that are part and parcel of being a chick, well, for the first time last night I really, really felt present in the process, aware of it, aware of the irony of the fashion I was choosing, aware of the implications, aware of the intentions. And how cool it was to know I was about to walk into a space full of other people who were conscious of these implications, who perhaps would not just take that dress and those earrings at face value, but might consider the possibility that there were more complicated intentions behind them.

And I guess that's my pet peeve with people who aren't willing to engage with queer theory and its emphasis on performativity, or perhaps, more accurately, people who are afraid to engage with it, afraid to tackle the big questions it proffers about essentialism and identity and reality and meaning. Because so few people I know really do take the time (or make the potentially destabilizing effort) to step back and say: well, why do I wear that? What does that make me? How does that make me feel? What does that say about my spirit, my sexuality, my body, my self? How might this potentially color my interactions with the people in my world? And how is what I do everyday when I get dressed really just a practice in being someone, the same way we practice yoga or piano or tennis or being kind?

It's so easy to float along with the current, to not even question the flow, to just go with it and assume that since you're a chick you have long hair and wear heels and since you're a dude you buzz your head and wear sneakers, and at some point it's kind of like, well, seriously, people: engage, already - engage, be present, be mindful, be courageous, be what you are, tell everyone else and Prada and Chanel to fuck off, be your own, set your own standard, shape your own fashion, tell the Christian Louboutins that they can suck it, that their ridiculously-overpriced red-soled high heels aren't worth crap, that it's all a bunch of bullshit marketing, that you can't buy personality, you can't buy spirit, you can't purchase prana; it's there or it's not, and you're what you are, and whether you shape that consciously and wear your own shit and be your own creation or whether you follow the crowd and buy the $300 sunglasses because some part of you capitulates to the myth that they'll make you "hip" and "desirable" is really up to you.

I sat at Gracias Madre last night and talked and laughed with these three radiant living loving striving working people, and I looked at them and thought, my god, how refreshing: these folks are trying, they are conscious, they are alive, they are mindful, they are their own; and what a release, what a refreshing change, what a breath of fresh air it was. And I was reminded once more - as one can never be reminded frequently enough - that it's not about some false externally-mandated notion of "cool" or "fashionable;" it's not about the shit you wear or the car you drive or the hair product you use; neti-neti, my loves, not-this, not-that. You are not your overpriced Louboutins. You are not your ugly Louis Vuitton handbag. You are not the pink or blue onesie your parents dressed you in at six months. There is no essence. There is no gender. There is no "there" there. You are you, you are what you decide you are in the moment, you are this breath and those shoulders and this particular pair of burgundy shoes that you spray-painted with a can and that particular low-cut 50's dress paired with the ballet wrap sweater and the onyx earrings and the Brigitte Bardot updo.

So be you. Don't be anyone else. Why bother? It's so little fun. And it's all just theater, anyway. So play a little. Loosen up a little. Laugh a little. Chill out a little. Life's too short to offer away all your creative agency to the commodity fetish that is a pair of branded heels. Be your own. It's ever so much more clear. And ever so much more queer.