Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I have to start this by stating that I've had an extremely blessed year. I made my first trip to Asia, met some incredible people, made profound connections with a few of them and generally had a great time. My yoga practice has advanced, I've enjoyed teaching it immensely, and had all my needs satisfied. Now comes the whiney bit. I recently sustained a yoga injury that's relatively minor. I twisted my spine when it wasn't warm causing one muscle to overlap another. That causes pressure on a nerve which can be extremely painful when I do those movements that involve, you know, moving. The best way to heal this, like many other exercise induced injuries, is to just rest and let the body heal. It's been pointed out to me that this could be a great opportunity to enjoy some precious downtime. Catch up on reading, emails, movies, just CHILL. Yet, I'm finding this whole thing excruciating on so many levels. As much as it pains me to admit, this is mostly because I feel like I'm getting fat and will lose all the muscle definition I've worked so hard to build. To be honest, I'm sort of obsessing about it and hoped that writing a post might get it out of my system. I don't know if it's because I used to be so overweight or if I just rely a lot on exercise as a stress reliever. I definitely miss the mind-calming effects of yoga, but a disciplined meditation practice should be able to do that and more. From a yogic perspective, this is nothing more than an opportunity to deepen my meditation and non-asana practice. Yeah, I'd be lying if I said that was happening. At least I have been cooking some delicious meals and reading up on all of my favorite food blogs. Maybe that's some kind of yoga too? Anything that gets me to stop obsessing about getting fat.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

We’re all going to die someday, right?

This question was posed to me, rather aggressively, while I was waiting for the full pat down by a TSA agent after opting out of the full-body scan at the airport. No, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, nor am I particularly modest and concerned about someone in another room seeing a vague outline of my lady parts, but I am a frequent traveler. If I had accepted every time I was asked to go through one of those scanners this year, it would be upwards of twenty scans by now. After I reiterated, yes I indeed would like the pat down in lieu of the scanner, I was treated to a rant that would, at best, be categorized as inappropriate in which she explained how many people in her family have died of cancer and I should know that it happen to anyone at any time. She’s right to some extent of course, but I explained I was simply trying to maximize my chances of avoiding it and was happy to wait for a pat down. She rolled her eyes and after making me wait for at least 15 minutes, finally rubbed the back of her hand up and down my front and back, felt around my waistband, and then sent me on my way. A new study that utilized data provided by the TSA recently determined that the scanners pose a negligible risk to passengers. Specifically that the scanners expose people to less than 1/3 of the .25 micro sieverts maximum recommended by the American National Standards Institute. The study also concluded that the rays in the scanner reach 29 organs with those low levels of radiation. The researcher made a point of noting that the radiation levels being shot into these organs are lower than those received when getting an x-ray or mammogram. Reading about this study does almost nothing to comfort me, and I’ll explain why. Number one, it did not actually measure the radiation being emitted from one of the TSA machine, but was based on data that the TSA gathered themselves. More importantly, the effects of radiation are cumulative and the study fails to recognize that any increase in exposure to radiation is adding, albeit only marginally, to the risk of developing cancer. The UK’s health protection agency put together a table indicating the amounts of radiation received in different procedures, the equivalent period of time it takes to receive that amount of radiation typically, and the lifetime additional risk of fatal cancer: While this is mostly comforting, and I will not opt out of an important diagnostic exam (even one that was the equivalent of 8 years of radiation exposure), I will opt out of the airport scan every time. The key difference being that a scan at an airport provides literally no benefit to me, beyond time and potentially subjecting myself to the lecture of a TSA agent involved. So why do it? Getting pat down is really not that bad and provides an equally secure mechanism to be sure that I am not carrying a weapon or anything else that might harm my fellow passengers. So, TSA agent, I’m going to continue to suffer through my awkward moments in the security line and hope for the best. Yes I might get cancer anyway, but at least I tried.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Feminist a Day: Margaret Cho

Margaret Cho was born Dec. 5, 1968 and raised in San Francisco. Her grandfather was a Methodist minister who ran an orphanage in Seoul during the Korean War. Ignoring the traditions of her patriarchal culture, her mother bravely resisted an arranged marriage in Korea and married Margaret’s father who writes joke books – in Korean. What Margaret did know is that she didn’t love being a kid. Racing toward adulthood to escape bullying, she began writing jokes for stand up at 14 and professionally performing at age 16. Getting picked on, and feeling disenfranchised, is a subject that’s very near to Margaret’s heart. Soon after starting her Stand Up career, Margaret won a comedy contest where first prize was opening for Jerry Seinfeld. She moved to Los Angeles in the early ’90s and, still in her early twenties, hit the college circuit, where she immediately became the most booked act in the market and garnered a nomination for “Campus Comedian of The Year.” She performed over 300 concerts within two years. Arsenio Hall introduced her to late night audiences, Bob Hope put her on a prime time special and, seemingly overnight, Margaret Cho became a national celebrity. Her groundbreaking, controversial, and short-lived ABC sitcom, All-American Girl (1994) soon followed. Oddly, while chosen because of who she was – a non-conformist Korean American woman with liberal views – the powers-that-be then decided they wanted her to “tone it down” for the show. Challenging Margaret’s feelings for both who she was and how she looked, she soon realized that though she was an Executive Producer, it was a battle she would not win. The experience was a traumatic one, bringing up unresolved feelings left over from childhood, and Margaret developed an eating disorder as a response to criticism about her body. She was so obsessive in her goal to try to be what she thought others wanted, she landed in the hospital with kidney failure. Through out a period of self-abuse, Margaret continued performing to sold-out audiences across the country in comedy clubs, theaters, and on college campuses, working to channel her anger in to something more positive. She has had a series of successful one woman shows and comedy productions including I’m The One That I Want, Notorious C.H.O., Revolution, and Beautiful. Her performances touch on the struggles of being a queer woman of color making her a favorite of the gay community. Margaret returned to TV in 2008 on the VH1 series,The Cho Show and followed that up with a starring role on Lifeime's Drop Dead Diva, and later Dancing with the Stars.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Feminist a Day: Friday Kahlo

Frida Kahlo was born in Coyoacán Mexico on July 6, 1907 to a Mexican mother and Hungarian-Jewish father. A bold and tenacious child, she was one of the thirty female students of the 2000 pupils attending the National Preparatory School, and insisted on dressing in a suit and tie for a family portrait. The famous painter is best known for her haunting self-portraits juxtaposing gruesome images with traditional mexican folk scenes. Her life was shaped by a trolley accident that fractured her spine, shattered her pelvis, and broke her collarbone. She endured 30 surgeries to repair her badly damaged torso and legs and discovered painting while in recovery. She met the successful painter, Diego Rivera, shortly after her recovery and they were married when she was 22. Both were ardent Communists that participated actively in the Party's work in Mexico. Throughout their turbulent relationship they both enjoyed several affairs. It is rumored that while Leon Trotstky was in hiding in Mexico City, that he and Frida were discovered by his wife who insisted they leave the Kahlo's home. Kahlo tolerated Diego's affairs and openly saw men and women throughout their marriage. They eventually divorced in 1939 only to remarry a year later. Their marriage ended for the last time when Frida discovered Diego and her youngest sister in bed together. Frida participated in her last Communist street demonstration just days before her death on July 13th, 1954. Her paintings were overshadowed by Rivera's success until she was re-discovered in the late 80s around the time that Madonna purchased one of her paintings for 2 million dollars. Her work is today exhibited in galleries all over the world.


Monday, March 5, 2012

A Feminist a Day: Tina Fey

Tina Fey was born in a Upper Darby, Pennsylvania on May 18, 1970. Apart from a tragic slashing at the hands of a stranger when she was five leaving her permanently scarred, she had a typical middle-american childhood that she describes as nerdy. She studied drama at the University of Virginia before moving to Chicago and joining the Second City comedy troupe. She was hired by Saturday Night Live in 1995 and later became its first ever female head writer when the show found new success after several years of lower ratings. She eventually began working in front of the camera with Jimmy Fallon on the weekly Weekend Update sketch before leaving the show in 2006. She wrote the critically acclaimed Mean Girls that achieved commercial success to the tune of $86,058,055 gross. After leaving SNL, she developed, wrote, and starred in 30 Rock, a half hour comedy about her experience as the head writer for SNL. The show won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2007, 2008, and 2009 and continues to enjoy acclaim in its fifth year on the air. In 2011, her memoir, Bossypants, made the New York Times bestseller list and top 10 iTurnes charts. Source

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Feminist a Day: Angela Davis

Moving to the more radical side of the feminist spectrum, today I'd like to profile the controversial feminist and radical activist, Angela Davis. She was born in 1944 in Birmingham Alabama to middle class parents. Her parents supported her leaving home at 15 to attend an integrated private High School in New York after receiving a scholarship from the American Friends Southern Negro Student Committee. She attended Brandeis University and later earned her doctorate at the University of California San Diego. She joined the Communist party of the United States in 1968 believing that the only path to black liberation lay in the overthrow of the capitalist class. She was fired from her position as professor of Philosophy at UCLA for her radical beliefs and membership in the party. In 1970, Davis participated in an armed attempt to free the Soledad Brothers and accused of buying the weapons used, conspiracy, and murder. She served 16 months in jail as an international campaign of support for her was staged. She served as her own co-counsel and was acquitted by an all white jury in 1972. She has written five books including Angela Davis: An Autobiography; Women, Race, and Class; Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday; and The Angela Y. Davis Reader. She has most recently been dedicated to the often forgotten cause of prisoner's rights and serves on the Advisory Board of the Prison Activist Resource Center. She is a tenured professor at the University of California Santa Cruz.

A Feminist a Day: Julia Alvarez

Julia Alvarez was born in New York City to Dominican immigrants in the 1950s. Three months after she was born, her parents decided to return to the Dominican Republic and participate in the underground movement to overthrow the brutal dictator Trujillo. By 1960, the dictatorship was cracking down on revolutionaries and her family was forced to flee back to New York. Alvarez studied English literature and eventually came to teach creative writing. Her first novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, was published in 1991. The novel tells the story of a Dominican family with four sisters who must flee to New York to escape the Trujillo dictatorship. The touching novel weaves the themes of assimilation, coming of age, and a mixed identity from each of the four daughters' perspectives. She again drew inspiration from her family history with In the Time of the Butterflies the story of the real-life revolutionary Mirabel sisters. Her father worked with the brave sisters who dedicated and eventually lost their lives heroically working with the underground movement to subvert the Trujillo dictatorship. She has a lengthy body of work that I won't detail here, but can be found on her website. She has most recently written a non-fiction autobiography called, Once Upon a Quinceñera: Coming of Age in the United States. She currently works as a professor at Middlebury colege and runs a sustainable farm literacy center, Alta Garcia, in the Dominican Republic with her husband Bill.


Friday, March 2, 2012

A Feminist a Day: Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth was born a slave in 1797 on a Dutch Settlement in upstate New York. Her parents, Elizabeth and James Baumfree, christened her Isabella and raised her speaking Dutch. At the age of 9, she was sold to English speaking owners who beat her mercilessly for her inability to communicate. She was sold several more times suffering an endless stream of abuse and indignities that she would describe in her biography as too unspeakable to detail. She had five children while owned by a New York man named John Dumont who forced her to marry another of his slaves. He promised her freedom after a year of dutiful service and then refused to grant it claiming she hadn't been productive enough. At that point, she knew she would have to run away. She fled Dumont's estate with her youngest daughter Sophia and found refuge in the home of Isaac and Maria Van Wagenen who agreed to hire her as a servant until New York's emancipation law took effect in 1827. While working for the Van Wagen's she received a divine inspiration that led her to preaching. She eventually changed her name to Sojourner Truth and made her living as a traveling preacher. She made her way to Massachusetts and joined the Northampton Association of Education and Industry where she met George Benson who dictated her memoirs, “The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave.” The book prompted invitations to speak and discuss abolitionism and women's rights. In 1854, she gave a speech questioning the long established idea that womens' frailty justified their subjugation:

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud puddles, or gives me any best place, and ain't I a woman? ... I have plowed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me -- and ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man (when I could get it), and bear the lash as well -- and ain't I a woman?"

She continued to fight for abolition and after the Civil War unsuccessfully petitioned the US government to provide freed slaves with land in the western territories. As many former slaves began moving West anyway, she worked in Kansas to help gain support for their arrival. She died at the age of 86 in 1883. Source

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Happy Women's History Month!

In honor of Women's History Month, I'll be profiling a feminist a day!

First up, Alice Paul

Alice Paul was an ardent suffragist who dedicated her life to earning women the right to vote. She was born to Quaker parents in 1888 in New Jersey and grew up working hard on her family farm. Her suffragist ideals cemented while in England working with the Pankhursts who believed civil disobedient actions and not words was the key winning the right to vote for women. Alice Paul was arrested with them for these more radical actions and after beginning a hunger strike were violently force fed. Upon returning to the United States, she worked with the National American Women's Suffragists Association before a conflict over their support for Woodrow Wilson's Democratic party drove Paul to create the National Women's Party (NWP). The NWP organized demonstrations in front of the White House protesting Wilson's refusal to support their cause. It was initially tolerated, however after the US entered World War I, many Americans came to view their activism as unpatriotic. They were attacked by angry masses and eventually arrested for obstructing traffic. The suffragists staged a hunger strike in prison and were brutally beaten and force fed by the guards. After a failed attempt to have Alice Paul declared insane, public will turned to sympathy and eventually support for the movement as the prisoners were released. Woodrow Wilson changed his position in 1917, endorsing women's right to vote and the 19th Amendment was passed two years later. Source

Alice Paul was depicted by Hillary Swank in the HBO film Iron Jawed Angels in 2004. You should watch it.