Yoga Fail

31 03 2010

This weekend, some my of my most ridiculously lovely girlfriends and I spent a few bonding days at a beach house in Bethany, Delaware.  We do this from time to time– we call them “Grand Vagina” weekends, because on the first inaugural GV weekend, my friend Meredith stood up (after a few beers) and announced, along with a grand arm gesture, that all men should learn to respect the Grand Vagina because, after all, it is the cradle of civilization.  Normally these weekends entail a lot of cocktail drinking, inappropriate stories, unhealthy snacking and a wild dance party until 4 am.  This weekend, it entailed healthy cooking, yoga, running on the beach, and outlet shopping.  WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO US??  But it was a blast nonetheless.

Saturday morning, Jenna “Den Mother” Pirog lead us in some impromptu yoga in the living room.  Jenna is fit as a fiddle and could just bend and twist her body all over the place like it was no big deal, whereas I was pretty much on my death bed by the second warm-up “sun salutation.”  Admittedly, this is not normally how I salute the sun, but I should still be able to pull it off.  So now, along with my “be a cooler person” campaign, I’ve also embarked on a major exercise kick to whip myself in shape by summer.

My regime began Monday when I put on my most Yoga-like outfit and marched over to my gym to catch the 6 o’clock complimentary Yogalates class.  Now, I’ve been to one or two yoga classes in my day (literally– one, maybe two), and usually I can just slip into the very back of the class so nobody notices that I have no idea what I’m doing.  But to my absolute horror, not one other person showed up on Monday afternoon.  It was just me and Kirsten, the Gumby-like yoga teacher who holds ballerina poses even when she’s relaxed and not trying to, and she insisted on having a one-on-one session.

“You’re familiar with the basics of Yoga right?” she asked.

“Oh yea,” I said, with a bit of an arrogant chuckle that said, Obviously I’m familiar with basic yoga, who do you think you’re talking to?

“Great,” she said, “You might want to take your sneakers off.”

Right. Sneakers off. I took them off and set up next to my mat.

“Ok, we’re gonna start with five sun salutations,” she announced, and proceeded to completely fold herself over.  “And inhale up, and stretch towards the sun, and exhale foooold your body over, and inhale arch your back and exhale pooour your body out of your hips and inhale repeat!”

Luckily, Jenna had forced us to do so many sun salutations this weekend that I actually did know what I was doing on this one, so I kept up fairly well.  This fooled her into thinking I was a double-diamond yoga master, or whatever they’re called, so she decided to crank it up a notch.  I was in the middle of trying to master my “downward dog” pose when she started twisting herself into a pretzel and talking about statues and sinews and trees.  I tried to mimic her like a monkey by cranking my head to watch her every move, and when she realized that I wasn’t even coming close to executing anything she was doing, she asked me again how many times I’d done yoga.

“Only once or twice,” I finally admitted.  “I’m a novice.”

She practically leapt out of her yoga pants she was so thrilled. “Ohhhh, that explains why you were staring at me the whole time! This changes everything!”

She dragged her mat over to mine.  “Are you a dancer?” she asked.  “You pick up choreography so well.”

I just laughed in her face.

For the next five moves she had me do, she had to manually move my body into the positions because my hips were never rotated the right way, my spine was never aligned, my feet were never pointed in the right direction, my chest was never open enough to the universe.

When I finally did get my body right, I would forget to inhale and exhale and get so dizzy my vision would black out.  I could see multiple eyeballs peering into the room from the small window on the door, probably laughing at the sight of this ballerina with both of her arms hooked around my arms and legs trying to make me look like the statue of “The Thinker.”  Literally, this pose was called “The Thinker,” and I was supposed to look like the statue, but without the stoop to sit on. I’m positive that she made this up to torture me.

“Isn’t there some kind of fetal pose that I can do now?” I begged, as my legs started shaking uncontrollably from the squat.

“Yes, child’s pose.  Let’s go into child’s pose.”

THANK GOD. It was everything I could do not to start sucking my thumb and wimpering.

Day 1 of Hardcore Exercise Regime, COMPLETE.  Only 85 more to go…


Black Widows: Russia’s Female Suicide Bombers

30 03 2010

Victims of the Moscow Subway Bombings

I’ve read a few different articles about the Moscow subway suicide bombings that killed 38 people yesterday morning, but until I read this Daily Beast article on the subject, I somehow missed the fact that both of those suicide bombers were women.

Apparently, there is a group of female “terrorists” that have been responsible for a number of major bombings around Russia in the past few years.  These women are called “Black Widows” because it is believed that they are seeking vengeance for the murders of their fathers, brothers and husbands during the war in Chechnya.

Daily Beast contributor David Satter writes:

The two Chechen wars, fought in 1994-96 and 1999-2000, were almost unparalleled in their barbarity in the postwar era. The women of Chechnya regularly witnessed the abduction of their husbands, fathers, and brothers, whom Chechen tradition treats as their protectors. In some cases, they were involved in trying to ransom them from Russian custody, an exercise that usually ended with them having to pay to receive a mutilated corpse.The result was a desire for revenge and a break with the Chechen tradition that men do not send women into war. The Black Widows have participated in two-thirds of the almost 40 rebel attacks that have killed about 900 persons in Russia in the last ten years. In the words of the murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, they “are trying to force Russians to feel the same pain that they have felt.”

I’ve always had a hard time understanding how anyone could be so angry and full of despair and convicted in his beliefs that he would consider strapping a bomb to himself and blowing up forty people.  But hearing about what these women had to go through makes the situation a little more real for me.  If my husband or male relative was abducted and, after months of fear and desperation, I paid a huge amount of money only to have his mutilated dead body returned to me, I very well might be capable of blowing myself up in a subway at rush hour.

I think, all too often, we are quick to associate suicide bombers with the Middle East and the religion of Islam.  We think that it’s because of their religious teachings–19 virgins awaiting them in heaven!– that teenagers randomly blow themselves up in public squares, or that it’s because of the oppressive culture of the Muslim world that those people don’t mind not being in it anymore.  In reality, these people are in pain.  They have lost parents and siblings in wars and random attacks.  And the longer we keep our armies in Afghanistan and Iraq, occasionally blowing up innocent people and raiding the houses of innocent families in an attempt to catch the bad guys, the more “terrorists” we will continue to create.

Right now, as I’m writing this, MSNBC is doing a segment on whether the Chechnyan suicide bombers are linked to Al Qaeda.  Give me a break, MSNBC. Do you want to send an army over to Russia to take these people out too?  Are they now part of the Axis of Evil?  These people don’t need to be shot or imprisoned.  They need a good team of therapists, a lifetime supply of anti-depressants and a support group.

Internet Smackdown: Online Dating vs. Porn

26 03 2010

Some of the facts in this internet dating study posted by are really, um, interesting.

Do I believe that the online dating industry, which combs in over a billion dollars per year, is bigger than the porn industry? No.  Not even close. I don’t think the porn industry can even be measured it’s so big.  Really interesting, though, that the porn industry blames its recent $74 million decline on the online dating industry.  Hm, should I look at porn today, or should I fill out a 400 question compatibility survey and seek out a lifelong mate?  Only have time for one! …No.  The porn industry is losing money for the same reason the newspaper industry is– free content.

Am I surprised that men lie about their incomes while women lie about their bodies?  No.  But it’s really sad what that says about gender relations.

Is it infuriating that a woman’s online desirability “peaks at age 21,” and that by age 48, men have twice as many online pursuers as women?  Yes.  It’s kind of sick that men see women as having an expiration date.  But I’m not really surprised about that either.

My favorite statistic: eHarmony boasts that  236 of its members are married each day.  But have they ever counted how many of their members get molested each day by the 1 out of 10 sex offenders using their site?

I doubt it.

The Mystery of Indie Rock Show-Goers

25 03 2010

I went to two shows this week as part of my life campaign to be a cooler person.  A disproportionate number of my friends go to shows all the time, multiple nights a week, alone or with others.  They love indie music so much that they will stand at a music venue alone for 5 straight hours on a worknight watching some obscure band perform.  I can usually be found running loads of laundry, making popcorn and watching Jeopardy on worknights, which isn’t nearly as cool, so I decided it was time to test my mettle and see some weeknight concerts.

So Monday night, I had a ticket to see Joanna Newsom at the 6th and I Synagogue, a pretty neat venue.   I get off work at 6.  It’s cold and raining pretty hard.  By the time I get home I’m soaked, and very tired from a crappy day at work.  The idea of putting on my pajamas, making myself some dinner and watching Jeopardy sounds really glorious at this point, but I already had a ticket to the show and a hot date, so I pushed myself to motivate.

Joanna Newsom

I arrive at the Synagogue and slip into a pew.  About 20 minutes later, these two dorky brothers with scruffy beards take the stage with one guitar.  For the next hour or so, they play some of the worst, most excruciating music I’ve ever heard.  One brother would play the guitar and sing a song with really dumb lyrics while the other one tried to harmonize.  I mean, the harmonies themselves were fine, but a harmony does not a good song make!

Torture.  I honestly spent their whole set trying to figure out whether they were joking or not.

So their set finally ends, and then we have to wait another hour while Joanna and her back-up band scurry around the stage “tuning their instruments,” like they couldn’t have done that before the show.  So far, I’ve been sitting in a pew in a Synagogue for two hours with no quality entertainment.

Finally, Joanna begins.  She’s really cool– hair down to her butt, long, flowy dress, excellent harp skills and a beautiful, interesting voice.  So for her first couple of songs, I’m placated.  This is entertaining.

Then she plays a fourth song, and a fifth  song, and a sixth song, each like 8-10 minutes long.  Her voice starts to become a little grating.  If this were a CD, I would change it to a different artist to take a break from her for a little while, but it’s not a CD, so I have to listen to the same voice singing long-form, un-rhyming poetry for hours.  I recognize that what she’s doing is very cool and interesting, but my ears are just tired of hearing it, I’m squirming in my pew and my bedtime is quickly approaching.

Joanna ends with a song that I swear lasts about 13 minutes, and by the time she plucks the final string on her harp, I am nearly passed out on my date’s shoulder.  She walks off stage, and I’m pretty relieved to get to go home, but then– get this– the audience decides to clap and clap until she agrees to come back on stage for more.  Really, guys? I mean, she’s great, I really like her. But we’ve already heard her sing very similar-sounding songs for over an hour, and it’s 11:30.  Do we need more Joanna?

Anyway, we finally leave the show to find a parking ticket on my windshield.  Perfect.

So Tuesday happens.  I have a ticket to see Spoon at the 9:30 club.  I really like Spoon– I only know a few of their songs, but I figure that I know enough to make the show enjoyable.  Learning a lesson from the night before, I decide to skip the opening act and show up around 9:30, hoping to get there just in time for the real mccoy.


I arrive at 9:30 and elbow my way through the thick crowd to find my three friends in the middle, who have already been standing still in the same spot for over an hour.  (For you out-of-towners, the 9:30 Club has no place to sit, at all, so when you see shows there you have to stand still for extremely long periods of time.)

So Spoon takes the stage a little after 10 and plays til midnight.  They mostly play their “new stuff,” as all bands do because they’re sick of playing their “old stuff” even though that’s what everyone wants to hear.  I’m not really enjoying their new stuff, mostly because I’ve never heard it before, but everyone around me is bopping their heads so I instinctively bop my head as well to prove that I am a fan.

An hour in, my back is hurting, and I’ve only heard one song that is vaguely familiar to me.  By 11:30, I can barely stand up anymore my back hurts so badly, but there is no place to sit or crouch because I’m squished in between a bunch of dudes.  So I elbow my way back through the crowd and sit against the wall in the very back of the club until the show ends.  The three people I was there with, who had all been there long before I did, toughed it out and stood in that same spot all the way through the encore.  It was truly commendable.

Now, here’s what I want to know. I realize that going to shows sounds a lot cooler than hanging out in the comfort of your room and listening to those same bands on a CD or record.  But is the former really that much more enjoyable for everyone?  I mean, do most people really, really enjoy these shows, or is it more to be able to tell people that you saw X obscure band last night?   I mean, it’s a novelty getting to see some famous people perform that song that you like, but is it really worth all the effort?

All I know is that after my 2-show stretch this week, I really gained a new respect for show-goers.  They buy tickets, traverse the city on a Monday night, sit through terrible opening acts, stand in the same spot for hours upon hours and then demand an encore.  The mental and physical energy required to do all that, alone, multiple times a week, just boggles my mind.

So the answer to the original question I posed to myself is no, I’ll never be one of those cool people that goes to see indie rock shows all the time.  But I am seriously impressed by people who do.

Even the Cows Have Cancer

24 03 2010

So I realize that I’ve been neglecting the blog a bit for the past few days, but the big investigative story I was working on has finally come out, and I would like to share it with you all. It’s not uplifting and it will not brighten your day, but it’s an important issue that I really care about and I hope that all of you will too.

The social and environmental injustices that are happening in this country every day are just absolutely appalling.  The first step anyone can take toward change is just publicizing the issue, because I’m quite sure that if people knew what was occurring in their own states, all over the country, they would not stand for it.

So without further ado, here it is, the fruits of my week of labor:

Even the Cows Have Cancer: EPA Weighs Tougher Regulation of Toxic Coal Ash

Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicaid!

21 03 2010

Oh, how original. A picture of Obama with a Hitler 'stache because he's a... socialist? Wait, I thought Hitler was a fascist? Wait what? Whatever, people will get the message that he SUCKS either way!

Sigh.  I am so tired of these idiotic posters, and I am so tired of this health care debate.   The GOP is just fear mongering and spreading lies about the bill to ensure that the rich stay rich and the poor die without health care coverage, the Dems are too weak to pass anything but a heavily watered-down bill that doesn’t do much anyway.  What a nightmare.

Here is why everyone should support health care reform: because everyone in this country deserves health care, and they don’t currently have it.  Period.

I find the argument that “oh, we don’t want to stand in longer lines, we don’t want you telling us what doctor to go to” so incredibly selfish.  The debate from the right side is just me, me, me.  I don’t want to change doctors, I don’t want to pay more taxes. The debate from the left side is Hey. We realize that this bill is far from perfect, but it’s one step toward providing coverage for the millions of people in this country who don’t have it.  Can we at least all get behind that?

The answer is no.

Ooh look, another clever sign. Not only is Obama similar to Hitler, but he's also a voodoo doctor, because, well, he's black. And everyone knows that Black People + Health Care = voodoo. Obviously.

I was interviewing a very nice 74-year-old farmer from rural Ohio this morning for an article I’m writing.  He lives in a toxic town where a number of coal-burning power plants are polluting his water and his air.  He’s had a horrible cough for about two years that won’t seem to let up, but he can’t afford health insurance, so he hasn’t been able to see a doctor once.  He’s pretty sure that he has developed some form of lung cancer, as the majority of his town has, but he just continues to work out in the fields all day, hacking up a lung because of the pollution that corporate America has imposed on him.  And the government can’t even help him with his medical costs?

This is just so unacceptable.  It has to change.  Conservatives, I don’t give a rat’s ass if you are bummed about the various ways you believe this health care bill will affect your current coverage.  Poor you, you have to switch dentists.  At least you can afford to take care of that tooth infection before it kills you, like it did this 12-year-old boy who couldn’t afford to go to the dentist.  I don’t give a rat’s ass if you are angry that the new bill covers abortions.  Would you prefer that more already-born babies die because their parents can’t afford their medical bills?

My colleague Sam Stein posted an article yesterday about health care protesters shouting “ni**er” and “fa**ot” at Democratic members of Congress during the health care debate.  Shocking?  No.  Surprising?  No.  Because these people are ignorant, they’re scared of what they don’t understand, and they will do and say anything to make sure that no one (especially a BLACK MAN! fan me!) steps in and changes the status quo.

For this reason, I am even more thrilled than I otherwise would have been to be able to say, in my most gloating-est of tones, THE FIRST STEP TOWARD HEALTH CARE REFORM JUST GOT PASSED IN THE HOUSE, BITCHES!!!!

That’s right, you “Tea Partiers” can all sulk home and take your dumb, racist, ignorant, fear mongering signs with you.  Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.  Or do.

Bear With Me…

19 03 2010

Not that you guys are holding your breath for my next blog post, but I just wanted to let you all know that I did not post yesterday and will not be posting (a real post) today because I’m working on a big investigative story that is consuming all of my being.  The story will be out Monday, and I should have a juicy new post by the end of the weekend, so check back!