My 30 Day Yoga Challenge…

Good Morning.

I’m a yoga school dropout. Or, recycle is probably a better term. Between my Grandmother entering Hospice, and my mother’s medical challenges, not to mention my ligament free ankle, I decided to recycle my registration to the fall class at Yogaworks. It begins on September 6 and meets every weekend until December. Blessedly, the administration there credited my full tuition to the next class, plus a small (not so small to me, but extremely reasonable in the scheme of things) transfer fee.

Bless their collective hearts. I am always surprised at how nice people here in Cali can be. Truthfully, I am always surprised and grateful at anyone’s kindness. I never expect it.

Maybe I should. But that’s another blog.

So, while I have no control over my grandmother’s decline or my mother’s health, I can manage my own athletic state. And I am horribly out of shape. I could blame last summer’s fall that disassembled my ankle, or I can discuss my 24-hour shift work in the medical profession, or I can just blame my mother’s cooking, but whatever it is–I’m guessing all three, plus maybe a large dose of laziness–I am twenty pounds heavier and physically weak. Which makes the two and half hour asana practices challenging to the point of perhaps inciting a cardiac incident (remember, I’m no longer a spring chicken, more like a fully feathered hen). It’s been so long, I’ve also forgotten how to do many of the poses correctly. Fortunately, with age comes wisdom, and postponing my training for seven months will give me ample time to get into shape. And up my (yoga) game, as it were.

As long as I get my chubby little tush in gear.

Hence the title.

So here it is; for 30 days I will do yoga. In class. Every day. With no excuses. All different types. With as many instructors I can find without going bankrupt. I will discuss my yoga experience, gently critique the instructor, and analyze any emotional or spiritual changes I experience as a result of my practice.

So here goes.

Saturday, February 8. The first day. A yoga maxim is, “when you’re blocked, go back to basics,” which is just what I’ve done with a Yoga Basics class with Lisa at the Studio, Danville, CA. Since I’m a member and they offer plenty of class choices, most of my class work will originate from there, I suspect. At about ten people, it was a relatively small class with many different ages and fitness levels represented. Lisa is a relatively new instructor there, having replaced Laurie, my favorite Yin instructor of all time. She has a more fitness oriented view of yoga and proved in that hour and fifteen minutes that with the right teacher, even a basic level yoga practice can work up a sweat. By the end of the class, I was slipping and sliding all over my mat. I was never so grateful for the wicking capacity of my workout attire than I was then. Oh, and note to self–go to lulu and buy a mat towel. Yoga can work up quite a glow. Pardon the euphemism, but I’m so sparkly, I could slip and break something. Kinda like those goofy vampires. Only you want them to break something.

But I digress. I’m surprisingly not sore after the workout. Maybe it was the twenty minutes I spent in the hot tub, but it’s been my experience that when you do yoga correctly with a good instructor, there’s no real long term soreness.

I slept really well that night. So on to day two.

February 9. I attended my customary Yin class, also taught by Lisa. As I discussed, she replaced Laurie as the instructor for this class. She definitely has a more fitness format. We began with our legs up the wall and worked from there. Designed by Buddhist monks to aid in the practice of meditation, Yin Yoga is the practice of the mystics. It opens up the fascia–or deep tissue–by extending the time spent in a pose. It is powerful and restorative and you can injure yourself horribly if you do it wrong. Lisa was careful, and no one did it wrong. Yin really opens me up spiritually and I will often have random visionary experiences pop into my brain while holding a pose. Today it was a pink lotus. It began closed and opened up through the practice until it was fully opened. Extremely detailed, I saw the gradations of pink to white on its petals. The petals fell off during svasana, but beneath those falling petals was yet another bud, white with a hint of pink, waiting to grow.

Yoga can be incredibly cool if you open yourself to the experience.

February 10. Slept ok. Woke up with sore feet. As your feet are yoga’s foundation, they definitely get a workout. I missed the hot tub yesterday and I chalk up my brief discomfort to this.

 

 

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The Kindness of Strangers…

I cannot believe that anyone actually reads me. So, cool. I have tons to say right now about a lot of things. You know, like Constitutional Law, and Civil Rights, and Death and Dying. So, let’s see where we go with this…

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Welcome to 1984. Now Buy Something!

As a teen, one of my favorite books was George Orwell’s, 1984. For those of you who have forgotten the cliff’s notes version you scanned to pass the test, it depicts the life of a man in a futuristic totalitarian regime where one’s every move is watched and controlled. It is set in the year(you got it) 1984. Well, George got the regime right, but the year wrong.

Human beings were always a bit slow…

Today, on January 18, 2012, we live in a great society. One of unprecedented wealth.  Where all but the most aggressive diseases are curable, where we can travel around the world in a matter of hours, where any information you can imagine is just a keystroke away…

Where one percent of the population controls most of that wealth and uses that wealth to control the candidates who run for election, the media outlets that advertise them, and, if necessary, the voting machine tallies that “elect” them.

Where virtually all of our movements are monitored, either through on-site video cameras or satellite. Where it is legal for law enforcement to place a gps device on your car without your knowledge or consent. Where you can be arrested and held indefinitely without legal recourse, where you can be forced to give up your password–in violation of our fifth amendment right against self-incrimination–to law enforcement on a whim. Where the government finances and follows your social networking sites and has the ability to shut off your access to that worldwide flow of information and means of communication–should they not like what we, the people, have to say.

You know, like if we’re tired of having our Constitutional rights and protections taken away…

All of the issues i just discussed are happening. Right now. Not in some penny-ante dictatorship. Here in the United States. The alleged leader of the “free” world. Our leaders keep telling us we’re free. We’re free to pay taxes (both ours and Citibank’s), free to vote for the candidates they select, free to purchase health insurance(now a requirement), free to support our children on seven dollars an hour, if our job isn’t outsourced. Our corporate overlords love outsourcing. Funny, if they do outsource their own jobs, it’s to some charming place like Dubai and they outsource themselves, too…

Oh, and we’re free to consume way beyond our means. In fact consumption is encouraged. Since they finally managed to “overhaul” (read overturn) the nation’s bankruptcy laws, no one over the age of eighteen(when they will either get their first credit card or incur their first car loan or college student loan) will ever be out of debt. And that debt will never be forgiven. America, in a time of massive job loss, has become a nation of debt slaves, owing their financial lives to the very people who have screwed them.

But enough of this. Back to consumption.

Our corporate kings do not like the idea that we use the internet for anything other than consumption for profit (theirs, of course). So they had the US Congress write this little bill-SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) which, if passed, would effectively shut down any file sharing site without any legal or judicial overview. In short, the language is so broad, youtube could be shut down for showing a video of me singing, “Mr. Sandman” at karaoke.  While i think that most karaoke singing should be shut down, it doesn’t make it a federal crime. In fact, we used to have this thing called a First Amendment to the United States Bill of Rights, that guaranteed anyone–even my tone deaf mother–the right to sing anything, anywhere. Even if it was under copyright. As long as there was no direct profit involved. The entertainment industry got that changed around the time that vhs became popular. And let’s not forget the corporate rape and pillage of Napster, one of the first music file sharing sites.

Yeah, because Jack Valenti and Metallica are standing on Hollywood Boulevard waving, “Will work for food” signs…

Don’t misunderstand me, I have nothing against the wealthy and people should be paid for their work. However, with the creation of the internet, the whole concept of intellectual property is changing. And needs to change. Reality is, no matter how hard the corporations make it, individuals will find a way around any copyright protections and, once something hits the web, the genie is out of the bottle. Knock down one site, two more will spring up. Track ISP addresses, people will start changing them like i change my shoes. Computers are machines, Congress and the Entertainment industry are not computer saavy, and there’s always a smarter hacker out there. So their choice is to effectively shut down the internet–except, of course, for direct purchase sites like Amazon or Itunes. An internet set up solely for commerce would probably be a corporate wet dream.

The thing is, it doesn’t reflect who we are as an international community…

There is a logical solution to this issue. Go back to the old law. Have anything in the virtual world that is not used to generate profit, such as music file sharing on a social networking site, stay legal. Should this move to the physical realm, however, like should someone burn a bunch of counterfeit cds to sell, it becomes a federal crime. Essentially like it is now. Easy to enforce, easier to catch. The moneymen may lose a little money up front, but make it back in free advertising.

Of course, this will never fly. SOPA–or as i call it, the Internet Censorship Act–is about controlling the last bastion of free speech–the internet. It is so loosely written that virtually every internet site(including isp providers) can be shut down. Essentially, the powers that be want to stop the flow of any source of information that they can’t control. Anything that might educate the American People to what their leaders are really doing.

Because tyranny can’t stand the light. Like a fungus, it thrives in the dark…

Thanks for reading…

Posted in 2012 Presidential Campaign, censorship, corporate greed, SOPA, SOPA, U.S. Sociology, War on US Constitution | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Libraries? We Don’t Need No Stinking Libraries!

Good Morning,

Early this morning, the space shuttle Endeavor took off for it’s final mission into space. The only real press coverage focused on the fact that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords–the one who got shot in Tucson–was there to send her husband off. Much was made of this.

Little was made of the fact that this is the end of an era.

After this mission, Americans will no longer have the ability to ascend into space. Half a century of human imagination will recede into history. All due to budget cuts.

Evidently, the United States can no longer afford a space program. Or SETI (search for extraterresterial life), or the arts, or family planning or public education…

Or libraries.

Yep, that’s right, libraries. According to state and federal authorities, libraries are no longer necessary. Evidently, the populace no longer reads books, nor does it need the score of computers, internet, and community reference materials that a local library provides.  Bankrupt state governments have decided that public school libraries don’t need librarians, unless they are also qualified to teach a traditional class, as well.

Evidently, all learning now occurs in a classroom. As a society, we know that, since our test scores are through the roof, and we are so ahead of other nations (ones with libraries) that we don’t even need to compete.  Local governments don’t see the expense of keeping public library doors open, much less purchasing new books or facilities upkeep.

A local library is one of the last free community resources. It provides books and other media, free internet service–no purchase required–and often forms the center of a community.  My grandmother, the daughter of a dirt poor coal miner, discovered her love of reading at the small local library in a tiny Kentucky town. My mother had read every children’s book in her public library before she was 12.  This carried over. When I was a child, I was taken on a weekly trip to the local Long Beach (CA) public library (Ruth Bach Branch).  No matter how tight things were financially, every time I walked into that library, so shelves overflowing with a cornucopia of knowledge, I felt like a Rockefeller.  I have had–and used–a library card in every city I’ve ever lived in, including my present home of Albuquerque, NM.  I only visit every 2 weeks or so, but check out at least six books every time.  Since I do not have internet at home, the library provides me with the opportunity to write this.

Libraries are used by everyone, but are depended upon primarily by the poor. Many of my unemployed friends correspond with potential employers via library internet. They revamp their resumes with the help of library materials. The library is often the only way for my unemployed couch surfing friends, their unemployment insurance long gone, to even look for work. Their email address is often the only solid address they have.  That and a “throw away” cell phone.  Contrary to what the mainstream press would have you believe, the economy is not recovering and this population of folks with “electronic addresses” is growing.

As a sociologist with an economics minor, I’ve always known that a society values what it spends its money on. So, let’s look at where our tax dollars are going. Corporate subsidies, tax breaks (paid for by the rest of us) for companies to move their workforce overseas, military “aid” in the form of troops and weapons to despotic middle eastern dicatators, oh, and let’s not forget, prisons for nonviolent offenders.

We spend money on these things and consider education, medical care for the poor, and public libraries disposable. There’s even talk of selling National Parks to pay our overwhelming national debt. Meanwhile, the poor get poorer, as does about half of the middle class.

Welcome to the third world.

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Whose Royalty is This, Anyway?

 

Good Morning.

A week ago, my good friend Anne invited me to a Royal Wedding slumber party.  We would nosh on all things English, and stay up late to watch Prince William of Britain, et al, marry Kate Middleton, commoner.  As much as I would have loved to spend the time with my friends, I demurred. I had a yoga class that night and had to take my grandmother to an early morning Neurology appointment the next day. I didn’t think much about it. I don’t have access to cable or satellite television so I missed most of the hoopla surrounding the nuptuals. I realized in the abstract–through the odd tweet or snippet of conversation overheard at the gym– that this was a big deal to a great many Americans.

For the life of me I do not understand why.

Don’t get me wrong, I wish the young couple well. I have great admiration for anyone who decides to take the marital leap these days, given the high divorce rate and current global instability. The fact that they will no doubt have children shows a real commitment to the future. So, like the rest of the world, I hope that their marriage is full of many joys, few sorrows, and lots of healthy children.

I just wonder what all the fuss is about.

I understand why the British are happy. Barring some unforseen disaster, this most popular young man will be their (titular) head of state someday.  He’s moved up with the times by marrying a commoner and this couple shows every indication of actually enjoying each other’s company. These are good things. And if the English people are actually comfortable with footing a thirty-two million dollar bill for this shindig, then more power to them.

I just don’t understand the American fervor.

Did we not fight two wars to remove the British Monarchy and form our own government?  We did.  In fact, my ancestors fought in both of those wars. On the American side. And we won.  We shed blood for the right to self determination. To not have a king stealing our riches while giving nothing back.  To elect our own representatives. To choose our own destinies. Even with our public education in a shambles, surely our children know about the American Revolution. Of course they know.  Everyone knows. The problem is that no one seems to care.

Or is there something deeper going on here?

Americans idolize royalty. The Kennedys are often referred to as, “American Royalty.”  One might argue that assassins’ bullets and a series of mishaps prevented us from becoming a de facto monarchy.  Who could forget that, after her recent death, most publications referred to Elizabeth Taylor as, “Hollywood Royalty.”   Real royalty, like William’s mother, Princess Diana, captured the U.S. imagination like few others in history.  Even though she went on international television and admitted to behavior that would have, in the past, found her head forcibly separated from her body.

Welcome to the land of doublethink.

Here in the U.S., we like to think that we are all equal.  Our whole society is built upon the concept.  “One man one vote!”, “No taxation without representation!” Our majority supports civil right, women’s rights, animal rights, children’s rights, everyone’s rights.  We like to think that we are a truly egalitarian country.  Truth is, we aren’t. And we really don’t want to be.  As our deep relationship with right wing politics and Fundamentalist Christianity indicates, Americans like having a Big Daddy–either in the form of Neo Fascists like “W” Bush and company, or by some vengeful, perpetually premenstrual male God represented by a preacher in a thousand dollar suit and too much blow dried hair threatening the congregation with eternal Hellfire (and much Bible bashing) if they don’t completely submit to His (whose?) will.  

To this I say, “Hail Cthulu!”

Seriously, I believe that part of this is the natural human longing for a simpler time.  Over the past few decades, our culture (and that of the world at large) has changed at a logrithmic rate.  Society has evolved– is still evolving–so rapidly that few people have any sense of their “place” in it.  Unlike our grandparents, we seldom spend twenty years in the same house, job or even state.  Our friends change, our social and economic status is on the decline; we have no feeling of true permanence anymore.  And we find this unsettling.

Royalty is permanent.

Well, not really, as the French, American, and Russian Revolutions will attest. But with it’s giant stone castles and fantastic jewelry it sure seems so. A monarchy upholds standards and maintains traditions. It moves forward through the generations. Through the centuries. Possibly through the eons. These are traits that we, a very young (only around two hundred fifty year old) nation in the throes of our own social revolution, covet.  And this, in itself, is not a bad thing.

It’s what we, as Americans, do with that desire that becomes the issue.

This fascination might be treated as a harmless pastime. After all, who isn’t interested in attractive, young, impossibly rich people with normal figures, receding hairlines, and bizarre taste in headwear?  This wedding was akin to visiting a sociological zoo. My Pomeranian (favorite pet of Queen Victoria, by the way), found the spectacle interesting.  Our fascination only becomes a problem when we attempt to incorporate that thinking into our own societal makeup.  It’s when we elevate others–our elected representatives, judges, or celebrities–to a status where they lack accountability to those they represent (us) that this becomes a problem.  Our founding fathers worried about this, which is why the United States of America is a Democratic Republic, instead of a true democracy.  It’s why we have an Electoral College and require our presidents to be born in this country. This is why we have a written template of what we, the people, stand for.

We call it the Constitution of the United States.  Anything else is just smoke, mirrors, and eye candy.  It would be good for us to remember it…

Thank you for reading…

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Welcome to the Devolution. Or, Back to the Fifties.

Good Morning,

      In case you haven’t heard, rumor has it that, as of 12:01 tomorrow morning, our government will no longer have an active budget in effect and will be forced to shut down “unnecessary” services and stop issuing payment for just about everything else.  This includes nonpayment of our military forces, both here and serving abroad, state subsidies, and I’m willing to bet, tax refund checks. What this does not cover, is Congressional (and Presidential) salaries and perks.

     All because Congressional Republicans are in a tizzy over–get this–pap smears.

     That’s right, the right wing whackadoodles in Congress have decided to completely stop the government until they successfully unfund Planned Parenthood. It isn’t enough that they have made it increasingly difficult for women to access their reproductive rights, now they’re working overtime, literally, to keep routine and necessary medical care from the women who can least afford it.  Including screenings for STD/s and cervical cancer. 

     Welcome to the War on Women. 

     It isn’t enough that a vocal minority has removed federal funding for abortion–a right repeatedly upheld by the United States Supreme Court–even during a time when Democrats controlled the Senate, House of Representatives, and the Presidency.  The new health care bill doesn’t even allow insurers to pay for abortion care. Thank you Mr. President, for throwing half of the population–and over half of your constituents–under the bus.  This same vocal minority now wants to completely remove Planned Parenthood from the Federal Rolls. 

     If I was a true fiscal conservative, I might, in theory, support this. After all, I might argue that the government has no business funding any non-governmental agency.  Unfortunately, this is not an attack on government spending. These same individuals voted to increase funding on unsuccessful “abstinence only”  reproductive (mis)education in public schools.  This is about seizing the United States Government, removing fifty years of women’s rights , and recreating our country in their own warped and outdated image.

     How these mostly middle aged white men must hate us.  They’re threatened by the smallest things–our wombs, our fertility, our vaginas.  But mostly I think, they are threatened by our brains. Over fifty percent of all college graduates are women. Same for the professional and graduate programs. Women are less likely to be unemployed–even in this economy.  We are succeeding.  And, we are increasingly doing it without a man in the house.  Even though we still make roughly seventy-one cents for every dollar made by a man.

     By denying us access to affordable reproductive care, they are essentially sending us back into the kitchen. Where we are no longer in competition for a piece of the community pie because repeated pregnancies makes it virtually impossible to have a professional career, an education, or even a life outside the home.  Where we need a man for economic survival.  It returns us to that place where we constantly live in fear. It returns us to back alleys where we hope the person really IS a med student and knows what s/he’s doing.  In short, they want to send women back sixty years.  Back to second class status.

     Maybe some good will come out of this whole mess.  Maybe moderate women will stop seeing these individuals as viable candidates and recognize them for what they really are.  Maybe they’ll begin to support candidates who conform to a more equality oriented agenda.  Maybe they’ll stop patronizing anti woman business (Domino’s Pizza comes to mind) Maybe they’ll start protesting. Heck, it worked in the sixties, when our foremothers did it.  Now we have the internet (until some governmental agency shuts it off). This should make it easier to organize.  Maybe women will engage in some healthy self interest and put their rights first.  (Okay, this one may be too much to ask–women seldom put themselves first. )

    We need to do something because this is a coup.  In the next twenty four hours we’ll discover who in Washington really supports equality for all its citizens and who considers a woman’s right to self determination “expendable.”  I only hope that it’s not too late.

Thank you for reading.

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Barack Obama: Commander-In-Chief or CEO of USA, Inc.?

     Two days ago President Obama officially announced his plan to run for reelection.  This came as no surprise to anyone, I’m sure, since he’s been running for president for almost three years after he was first elected. I mean, he must be still running.  After all, he certainly doesn’t behave like the leader of the Free World.  More like a corporate CEO whose job is on tenterhooks and must please his board (read, congress), at all costs, all the while throwing the employees (read, us) under the bus. Which would hardly be noticed, were he heading a multi-national. Unfortunately, the American people hired him to do a different job; he’s supposed to represent us.

     As an attorney and former professor of Constitutional Law he should know this.  He was elected with virtually no experience, mostly on the romanticised “we want Camelot back” view of baby boomers and the, “he’s young and not an emotionally unstable female republican” view of their progeny.  None of this has turned out to be the case. For the record, the oft-quoted “Camelot” of the Kennedy years was, for the most part, a sham. Kennedy was a religious conservative who chased anything in a garter belt.  The Civil Rights Act and subsequent supportive legislation was all finessed through by JFK’s successor, Lyndon Johnson after that fateful day in Dallas.  Kennedy also sent the first troops intoVietnam.  Johnson just inherited the subsequent mess.  And lost his political career over it.

     To any student of history, Barack Obama, to pardon the pun, is no Jack Kennedy.  Unlike Kennedy’s Noveau Riche family, Obama was born to a single parent of modest means. His grandparents sent him to a prestigious prep school where he learned to make friends and be accepted by individuals far beyond him on the socioeconomic ladder. He has been courting those individuals ever since. This “courtship” has led him to the highest political office in the land. It is also why I call him a “stealth republican.”

     Barack Obama has ignored or directly violated every one of his campaign promises, all the while signing some of the most pro-business law in history. 

     He promised to repeal the Patriot Act, a largely unconstitutional group of laws allegedly designed to prevent terrorism but actually set up by the previous administration to suspend individual constitutional rights. He extended it. As an added bonus, he promised to close Guantanimo Bay prison, where people have been held and tortured for years in complete disregard of our constitutional principles.  After four years, Gitmo is still open. Instead of the open and somewhat fair trials promised in Federal Court, he’s sending them to secret Military Tribunals, with little or no access to independent counsel.  That alone is worthy of the Bush Administration. But I digress.

     Barack Obama also asserted that he would remove us from that morass in the Middle East.  Last I checked, we were still in Iraq. We now have an enlarged presence in Afghanistan, and we are bombing Libya.  This is bleeding us dry both on the battlefield and in our national budget.  He turned his back on an American and Israeli ally of thirty years in Egypt–actually threw him under the bus. Now only the Egyptian military stands between the people and another fundamentalist Islamic state. Brilliant move, if you support the Mullahs.

     That’s nothing compared to what he’s done to his constituents.  He passed the largest corporate health care giveaway in history. Soon, all Americans will be required to carry health insurance. Instead of having a basic national health policy, with additional tiers that private insurers could carry, we have to purchase it from a private company. Because everyone six hundred dollars or more a month to spend on health insurance.   Especially the roughly eighteen percent unemployed, because we know that their benefits–those who still receive them– will stretch to cover the mortgage, food, and COBRA.  For me, the most interesting part of this bill is the fact that Obama chose to use the IRS as the agency responsible for its enforcement.  You remember the IRS, that tax agency with ready access to your place of employment and all of your financial assets. And no legal requirement to honor your constitutional rights.

Yeah…

     One of his first acts as President was a multi-trillion-dollar bailout of this nation’s banking system.  By borrowing money–mostly from the Chinese–to do this, he essentially turned our great-grandchildren into debt slaves. To the Chinese…Who make all our stuff…Hmmm…Did I mention that it would have been cheaper to bail out every person with an account in jeopardy?  After all this money, did the financial institutions involved actually changed their spendthrift ways? Nope, they kept their posh corporate retreats and multi-million dollar bonuses. Paid for by the United States taxpayer.  And their great-grandchildren.

     Which brings us to the impending government shutdown.  The Republican controlled congress wants to balance the budget by unfunding npr, Planned Parenthood, and health care for the poor and elderly(ironic, isn’t it?) while abolishing both capital gains and corporate taxes.  In short, move the government cheese to those who need it–rich multi-national corporations with net incomes of over ten million dollars who employ few here because they have, for the most part, move their production and customer service operations overseas. Already, the press (conveniently owned by the same corporations) are discussing how a government shutdown would be bad for business.  Let’s see if our President does the job the average citizen hired him to do or if he caters to those who really elected him.  I’m betting on the latter.  Because he’s still trying to win the approval of the rich (Republican) kids. Because he has become one of the rich (Republican) kids.

Must be nice to have a friend like Obama in Washington. Pity I’ll never know.

Thanks for reading.

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