“I was thinking how it seems that dieting has replaced sex as a means of trying to control women. It is as if we have gone from legs closed to lips closed. Adverts for healthy snacks show women resisting temptation, colleagues innocently offering snacks turning into devils, women holding onto trees to avoid what seems to be a magnetic pull towards a bakery shop, etc.”—
It’s not even a new concept. I read a book several years ago, A History of Celibacy, that talked about how many early Christian female saints, who were of course celibate, were also what we’d now think of as anorexic. Starving themselves in ways and extremes that men never did. That extreme thinness became synonymous with holiness.
I read a shockingly perceptive issue of Self last summer that said that so many women have “rebranded” dieting so that they don’t feel like they’re giving in to society’s awful standards of thinness, etc etc. It’s no longer about “I’m on a diet” - now it’s all about “I’m just trying to get healthy.” I know SO MANY PEOPLE who have given me that same line. “I’m not over-exercising or dramatically cutting calories for vanity; I’m just getting healthy!” BS.
Friday is here, hooray! My sister is visiting for the weekend, so I won’t have much time to read, but I plan on finishing James Clemens’ (pen name of thriller writer James Rollins) last book in the Banned and the Banished series, Wit’ch Star. It’s an awesome fantasy series, highly recommended. What are you reading this weekend?
1. You noticed your shoulders creeping up toward your ears … again. Yoga helps battle the physical, mental, and emotional signs of stress.
2. If you’re going to procrastinate anyway, you might as well do it with yoga. Yoga is WAY more fun than ironing your pants, cleaning up the kitchen and other afternoon chores. And it’s ever healthier than Facebook!
3. If you ever want to touch your foot to the top of your head, you better start practicing now.
4. No one knows what the week will bring, but whatever it is, you’ll be a lot more capable of dealing with it if you do something that leaves you calm and refreshed. Think about how much better your life would be if you did just ONE thing everyday that made you feel that way.
5. No one else is going to do it for you. If you want to improve your outlook on life, the length of your hamstrings, the quality of your breath, or the tone of your gluteus maximus (and who doesn’t?) you have to do the work (and play) for yourself. This is a good time to start!
6. I’ve heard David Swenson say, “I’ve never finished my practice and thought, ‘I wish I hadn’t done that!’” Have you? No matter what’s keeping you from unrolling you mat—laziness, allergies, or something else you want to accomplish in your spare time—you know you’ll feel better after you’ve practiced. So just do it.
7. Your yoga mat really brings out the color in your eyes.
8. You’ve been looking for a good excuse to wear your most comfy clothes to the grocery store, coffee shop and around town running errands. Just bring a yoga mat along and you’ll be instantly in style. Seriously. Leave the stilettos at home.
9. If someone gives you one more thing to do you feel like your head might explode. Yoga lets you slow down, take deep breaths and encourages you to do one thing at a time.
10. Because you’ve forgotten how amazing you really are. Yoga reminds you of the all the fascinating wonders your body (yes, yours!) is capable of, and if that’s not a self-esteem booster, I don’t know what is.
11. You just don’t have enough time to go to the gym, take a nap, get a massage, AND catch up with friends. Yoga gives you some of the benefits of all of these (and more) all in one class. It’s like multi-tasking, but you only have to focus on one thing: your practice!
12. You just noticed a familiar itch in the back of your throat. Certain poses can boost your immune system, help you release harmful toxins and keep you healthy.
13. Holding poses for lengthy periods of time is like training for that upcoming trip to your in-laws’ house. If you can relax and breathe through 15 breaths in Warrior two Pose, you’ll be ready to gracefully handle a weekend of nosy questions and critical comments …
14. You’re worried about the state of the world. You can make an impact simply by setting an intention, taking care of yourself and emitting a positive energy into the universe.
15. It’s raining outside (somewhere). Now is your chance to get your yoga on without feeling guilty for not taking the dog to the park or beach. She’d rather be inside anyway.
16.You ate pizza and popcorn for dinner last night. The increased awareness yoga brings will spill over into other areas of your life—just like the soda you spilled onto your keyboard while you were checking your email.
17. A yoga studio is the perfect place to pick up girls. (If picking up girls isn’t your thing, it’s also a really great opportunity to make new friends.)
18. Two words: Yoga Butt. You can be of “those people” who look fabulous spandex. And even if you’re not, a regular yoga practice will bring out all of your most beautiful features—inside and out.
19. Yoga will make you more popular. Trust me. People will like being around you more when you’re calm, balanced, serene, and uplifted from your post-yoga buzz.
20. A yoga class will set the tone for a great week! It takes just an hour to align your body, mind, breath, and spirit.
21. You’ll be more able to take care of the people you love if you take care of yourself, too. Set an example for your loved ones by showing them that doing something good for yourself is a priority.
22. It’s impossible to be bad at yoga. My first yoga teacher used to say, “Yoga isn’t about doing—it’s about being.” If you can be, if you exist in this world, you’re a yoga student whether you realize it or not.
23. You’ll love the decor in the studio. It’s all calm and soothing, your home decor probably just reminds you of all the chores you need to do. Escape!
24. Yoga is like flossing, but for your mind and body. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
25. It’s the only place where there are no rules, no expectations, and no limits. Just come as you are. Do what you need to nourish your body, mind, and spirit. No questions asked.
It says something about the nesting habits of certain bookish New Yorkers that when a shopper took a wrong turn out of the Strand one day, he wandered into Hank O’Neal’s apartment and mistook it for an annex of the bookstore. He was looking for the rare book room, but he took the wrong door, which led to the wrong elevator, which opened directly onto Mr. O’Neal’s front hall. There the man was, methodically making his way along a hallway bookshelf sagging under the complete works of Djuna Barnes when Mr. O’Neal’s wife, Shelley Shier, looked up.
”Excuse me, can I help you?” she called. ”Oh, no,” the man answered cheerily. ”Just browsing.”
As a general rule I am rather suspicious of people who don’t read books, and even more so of people who don’t read fiction.
Fiction as we know it now captures, in my humble opinion, something that is essentially human, a primordial need to tell tales, to explain the world into words. A true story is a precious thing, a made-up one pure magic. There are tales with atavistic resonance, forgettable ones, tales of power, stories one hates and stories one carries within forever; sentences that make your spine tingle and sutras you want to memorize. They can be given as gifts, passed on for generations, treasured and held and released.
I’ll be reading Spud: The Madness Continues by John van de Ruit, which is laugh-out-loud funny. I’ll also be working out in the rain at Self Magazine’s Fitness in the Park event tomorrow. Then snuggling in Sunday, reading and cleaning. What are you reading this weekend?
Are you a “Lost”-aholic? Hooked on “Survivor” or “Top Chef”? Hopelessly entangled in “Big Love”? So darned addicted to “Deadwood” that you find yourself hovering over the mailbox in hopes that the little red envelope with the next DVD will materialize?
Relax, America — you are not alone. For those feeling conflicted about all that time in front of the tube, or for those who want more of a good thing, here’s a way to nourish your intellect and your obsession at the same time. Expand your horizons — pick up a book that takes you to a world that is just like your favorite TV show. Here are some staff suggestions:
IF YOU LIKE: “Lost” (9 p.m. Tuesdays, ABC; Seasons 1-5 available on DVD).
READ: “The Stand” by Stephen King (1978). King’s post-apocalyptic epic is frequently cited by the “Lost” creators as a major influence. The sprawling tale follows two disparate groups of survivors in the wake of a disaster — in this case, the accidental release of a “super-flu” virus — and features, among other things, a character who doesn’t seem to age, the detonation of a nuke, dreams, visions, supernatural touches and a confrontation between Good and Evil. Sound familiar? Another obvious option is “Lord of the Flies” (1959), William Golding’s disturbing allegorical novel about what happens to a supposedly well-groomed group of British schoolboys when they fend for themselves on a deserted island. — Chuck Barney
IF YOU LIKE: “Survivor” (8 p.m. Thursdays, CBS, “Heroes and Villains” 20th season finale airs 8 p.m. May 16; previous episodes available www.cbs.com/prime time/survivor/and on DVD).
READ: “Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe. If part of your fascination for the long-running mother of all reality shows is not so much the backbiting and the conniving and the betrayals, but the sheer ingenuity some of the competitors show finding shelter and sustenance in the midst of all that deprivation — check out the original survivor’s story. First published in 1719, still in wide circulation today and hailed practically everywhere as the first novel printed in English, Defoe’s tale of the shipwrecked castaway who barehandedly carves out an existence for himself on what he calls the “Island of Despair” has many resonances with the modern TV show. Robinson digs a cave. Robinson fences in a house. Robinson tames the goats. Robinson dries grapes to put up for the winter. Why, this one-man (until Friday arrives) dynamo puts those slackers “The Swiss Family Robinson” to shame! — Sue Gilmore
IF YOU LIKE: “Big Love” (HBO series, seasons 1-3 available on DVD).
READ: “The Lonely Polygamist” by Brady Udall (2010), and “Under the Banner of Heaven” by Jon Krakauer (2003).
Why are we so fascinated by polygamy? Probably because the dynamic of a family comprised of one husband, several wives and scores of children, offers such rich emotional material to be mined. That’s precisely the reward of the new book “The Lonely Polygamist,” just named by Entertainment Weekly as “the novel you must read this summer.” (Halfway through it, I can confirm it’s a page-turning dramedy.) Udall will be stopping by Rakestraw Books in Danville at noon on May 12. (See a book review on Page 9.)
On the serious side, anyone who wants to better understand the fundamentalist offshoot of the Mormon church — which soundly denounces polygamy — need look no further than this insightful investigation by one of the country’s finest long-form journalists. “Under the Banner of Heaven” weaves together a series of story lines that includes a shocking modern-day murder, the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping and scathing true-life accounts of child abuse and tax evasion on sprawling rural compounds — all in the name of a religion that “answers only to God.” — Lisa Wrenn
IF YOU LIKE: “Madmen” (airing in reruns Mondays on AMC; seasons 1-3 available on DVD).
READ: “The Hidden Persuaders” by Vance Packard (1957). Just as “Madmen” meticulously captures the emergence of a darker, more cynical and aggressive era on Madison Avenue, so does Packard’s nonfiction book expose the emergence of a darker and more cynical new approach by advertising companies, which were employing psychological techniques and “motivational research” to manipulate consumers’ desires rather than promote a particular product. In other words, they were messing with people’s heads to get them to buy stuff they didn’t want. Sounds old hat nowadays, but in the dawn of the ’60s, these were disturbing revelations, indeed. It can be a tad puritanical and preachy, but that kind of adds to its appeal. — Randy McMullen
IF YOU LIKE: “Top Chef” (Various air times on Bravo; Seasons 1-6 available online and on DVD).
READ: “Knives at Dawn” by Andrew Friedman (2009). Who needs Padma, Tom Colicchio and grumpy Toby? Friedman’s saga of the U.S. team’s yearlong quest for glory at the 2009 Bocuse d’Or is more compelling than any Quickfire. Fed up with European domination of the infamous culinary competition held biannually in Lyon, France, Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud decided to mount a serious challenge. Friedman follows the insane preparations and backstage shenanigans as Team USA, led by the French Laundry’s Thomas Hollingsworth, attempted to unseat the French in nine obsessively perfect courses. — Jackie Burrell
IF YOU LIKE: “Friday Night Lights” (8 p.m. Fridays, NBC; Seasons 1-4 available on DVD).
READ: “When the Game Stands Tall: The Story of the De La Salle Spartans and Football’s Longest Winning Streak” by Neil Hayes (2003). You don’t have to live in Texas to cherish great high school football. With taut prose and an eye for detail, Hayes, a former Contra Costa Times sports writer, examines the culture of the sport via one of the nation’s top programs. But like the show, his book is about so much more than X’s and O’s, delving into personal relationships, life choices and the power of teamwork. You’ll also find shades of Coach Taylor in De La Salle’s inspirational leader, Bob Ladouceur. — Chuck Barney
IF YOU LIKE: “Deadwood” (HBO, three seasons, available on DVD).
READ: “Deadwood” by Pete Dexter (1986): It’s uncanny how Dexter’s book captures the tone and atmosphere of HBO’s critically revered series, even though the novel came out well before the show. The true grit — perhaps squalor is the better word — of the Wild West comes vividly to life through Dexter’s off-color and meaty prose. Dexter, a journalist and National Book Award winner for “Paris Trout,” is especially brilliant whenever he’s fleshing out the eccentric players, including Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, that inhabit or mosey on into the rough-and-tumbled town of Deadwood. Unlike HBO’s bleak show, Dexter interjects healthy doses of randy humor for an uncensored take on what life was truly like in America’s down-and-dirty frontier. — Randy Myers
READ: “Lost and Found” by Carolyn Parkhurst (2006). Over-the-top personalities, glorious landscapes and a race for a million dollars? Parkhurst’s novel has a definite “Amazing Race” vibe, but as the chapters of this funny tale unfold in first person character studies, Parkhurst’s contestants come to life in all their heartbreaking, occasionally comic glory. Forget the Travelocity gnome. We wish Amazing’s Phil made his contestants cart challenge clues like these. We’d give a lot to see that beauty queen carrying a trilobite fossil, an aviator’s helmet and a live parrot around the world. — Jackie Burrell
READ: “House of Versace: The Untold Story of Genius, Murder, and Survival” by Deborah Ball (2010). Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn throw an open invitation to a batch of wannabe fashion designers every week on this popular reality show, and their struggles with each new challenge to their creativity may whet your appetite for a juicy true story of how one of the most famous designers — Gianni Versace — created his empire from the ground up. Son of a seamstress and a TV salesman, Versace, with his big brother Santo and kid sister Donatella, created a flamboyant, sexy line of ready-to-wear in the ’80s and ’90s that flew in the face of hidebound French traditions and introduced a new era of design. This grippingly written biography has it all: sibling rivalry, movie star glamour, outrageous ingenuity — that famous little black dress with slits tethered to Elizabeth Hurley’s curvaceous frame by a set of gilded safety pins on either side! — and, of course, bloodcurdling crime and subsequent manhunt. It’s a great read. — Sue Gilmore
IF YOU LIKE: “The Librarian” (Occasional series on TNT, available on DVD), “Up,” “Indiana Jones” or “Tintin.”
READ: “The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon” by David Grann (2009). From Indiana Jones to “Up’s” Charles Muntz, most of those iconic pith-helmeted explorers we love in fiction are based on one real guy, British explorer Percy Harrison Fawcett. Back in 1925, Fawcett entered the jungles of the Amazon on an obsessive search for the legendary city of gold — and never came back. This riveting nonfiction page-turner follows Grann, a writer for the New Yorker who had never even been camping, as his search for the truth behind Fawcett’s disappearance becomes an obsessive, near fatal jungle trek of his own. — Jackie Burrell.
IF YOU LIKE: “This Old House,” (Airs various times on stations KTEH and KQED, available on DVD).
READ: “Crawl Space” by Sarah Graves (2009). For the past decade, Graves has written the “Home Repair is Homicide” series featuring Jacobia “Jake” Tiptree, a former accountant to the mob who gave up the high life in New York for an 1823 Federal-style house in Eastport, Maine. Between home repairs and remodeling, Jake also solves mysteries that often involve murder. — Joan Morris