28 March 2007

yoga hostility

when i first read this article, slate's "the hostile new age takeover of yoga," i was nodding my head in agreement. yes, yoga has been commercialized, dumbed down and misinterpreted via its entrance into american gym culture. yes, yoga's eastern principles of meditation and breathing have been diluted, with the help of magazines, to include the very western concepts of power and immediacy.

yes, many yoga-addicted americans are more interested in the workout aspects of their practice than the breathing and focus that our yoga teachers are constantly telling us are of primary importance.

yes, yes, yes. ok. we're so american. this is not news, and certainly not the first article of its kind.

but the more i thought about the article, especially on the walk back from my yoga class yesterday, the more i have come to think: so what? so american culture tends to commodify eastern philosophy. so american women admit to appreciating yoga's physical benefits. so there are stupid magazines at supermarket checkout lines that speak to the lowest common denominator.

but does this really consist of a hostile takeover? i mean, i practice ashtanga yoga twice a week, and while i work very hard on the mental aspects of it, the truth is that i'm there for the exercise. should i feel bad about this? isn't it better that i drag my american ass to the class at all? am i somehow involved in a coup?

and what is more trite actually, the way yoga has been appropriated by american culture or the complaining about said appropriation? i find it hard to believe that there isn't a thoughtful yoga magazine out there, or a yoga studio that doesn't include a power yoga class. if the author is really so offended by his yoga options, perhaps he should move to india.

26 March 2007

vacation horizon

i'm in pre-vacation impatient mode. semana santa begins for me on thursday at 4pm and i can't get there fast enough. after a slightly bummed out weekend, i'm ready to shed the routine and get out of town.

on the agenda: saturday morning arrival of mr. michael from the homeland. our chariot awaits us sunday morning (rental car) and we run for the border. two days in northern portugal then northern spain. galicia, asturias and picos de europa. i'm excited to see new parts of the country and spend a week disconnecting from madrid.

four more days.

meanwhile, happy monday. here's a list of some things i've been reading:

20 March 2007

seasonal confusion disorder

over the weekend when it was 70 degrees i was marveling at the fact that it was technically still winter. i cautiously put away the space heaters and eyed my summer clothes. terrace parties, suntan lotion. talk of the "ool."

and just as spring actually arrives, the weather regresses back to winter. a cruel twist of events. and for the moment i'm at home, don't expect me to come out until spring returns.


19 March 2007


what a weekend. days on the terrace sunbathing, gossiping, playing with the puppy. nights staying out until dawn, saying goodbye to two close friends.

it's weird when somebody leaves. it's a very intense moment of sadness: the tense moments leading up to The Moment, the hugs, the ceremonial bequests of personal belongings.

(i made out pretty well from these two -- a tennis racket, a printer, a george forman grill, a shawl, a sweatshirt, a book. you might think, as somebody callously observed, i was circling like a vulture, just waiting to pick over the remains. but no! i cried real tears!)

anyway, what i find even weirder than the sadness is the way things return to normal mere moments later. we all shift and readjust and of course miss the person who has left, but shake off the sadness rather quickly. phone calls are replaced by emails. afternoon coffees in madrid are replaced by happy hour drinks in new york.

to live this kind of life, to move around, to find homes in many places or none at all, to just as often be the one saying goodbye as the one being said goodbye to requires this level of resilience. it necessitates a sort of friendship that isn't disturbed by location, or months without contact. it leaves a trail of friends across continents each punctuated by various goodbyes and hellos.

but i did cry, for the first time in probably six months.

moments later, i felt better.

photo by paul

15 March 2007

happy birthday stib

who is that dashing gentleman in the fancy getup?

why, that's my cousin steve. nobody rocks a leather body suit like he does. and today he's 31.

steve and i both grew up without siblings, so we had each other in a pinch when the family situation demanded a child of similar age. like trips to see grandma in florida, or studio portraits at the mall.

i always thought he had the best toys. when we were kids it was the legos. later, the best bikes and skateboards. nowadays he had an amazing house and an even more amazing dog.

growing up we were always kind of a pair, we always hung out together and got along. the best part is that we still do.

my new friend

meet zas, my new little friend. weighing in at 1.7 kilos (3.7 pounds) zas is half chihuahua, half angel and half sweetie pie. he likes long walks in zoe's apartment, quiet nights romping in bed and harmless biting. he specializes in bringing the fun and the cuteness.

13 March 2007


march is here, which means it's bracket time. if you live in an office or if you're a guy, chances are you've filled out your ncaa championship bracket and have a little money riding on it. i like the bracket idea; elimination tournaments, while possibly not the fairest, are always the most exciting.

this year i have noticed a trend: bracket mentality is seeping into non-sports related competitions. competitions are even being invented to capitalize on the effectiveness and pervasiveness of bracketology in march. see the morning news' tournament of books (bracket here for easy printing) and accompanying blogger's office pool for all the literati who feel kind of left out while the rest of the world watches sports.

well, all my pondering on this subject was answered, or usurped, by slate's cover article today the enlightened bracketologist. their essay explains how the "ingenious" bracket structure can help solve some of "life's most nagging questions." the article is mostly fluff, but there are some fun interactive brackets aiming to sift out best ad slogans, best film deaths, best marital fights and best 'where were you' moments. they take about two minutes each and then you can see how your bracket stacks up against the "expert"'s.

it kind of makes you think: wow, what else could i decipher this way? maybe best sexual encounters? all i have to do is come up with a power-of-two numbered seeded set of things, arrange them judiciously so there are no easy outs in the first round, then make a series of either-or type judgments. what could be easier? turns out, skipping the exercise entirely and writing a blog post about it, then watching the latest episode of 24.

today's question: i did the best ad slogans bracket and 'just do it' won. any other results?

can't we all just get along?

i've been reading about, and hearing about, the daylight savings time shift in the us. the hysterics were reminiscent of the y2k meltdown. y2k-2k7? but over here in spain, nobody has their panties in a bunch about this one. in fact, nobobdy seems to know when we turn our clocks ahead.

so i did a little bit of research and turns out, rather than being one week ahead of the u.s. daylight savings time shift as in past years, we are now two weeks behind. this means we set our clocks ahead on march 25 and that for the next two weeks europe is only 5 hours ahead of the eastern u.s. that's right all you friends and family: think twice before picking up the phone to make that long-delayed call to yours truly. 5 hours time difference. you've been warned.

10 March 2007

spring fever

with warm days seemingly here to stay i find myself out of my winter slump. suddenly my days are fuller, i have plans every night, i'm exercising more, i feel better. not that i don't appreciate seasons or the value of a crisp cool day, but it's safe to say that winter is not my best time of year. here in madrid it only lasts a couple of months...perhaps 8 weeks moping around the house is a healthy respite in a busy year? not that i was exactly in the bell jar, but slightly down from my usually chipper self.

i've realized that my moods are rather mellow. i rarely get outraged, or depressed, or feel ecstatic or miserable. as a result, i feel slight ripples in my smooth sailing acutely; i'm fairly accustomed to a general sense of contentedness and i like it that way. a slump can feel like a canyon.

tonight i face a dilemma: to go see a band i really like or go play a friend's new wii. seems like the band should by all accounts win here.

07 March 2007

quarterly review

awww, kind of reminds me of home.

so, you may be wondering about my resolutions so boldly presented earlier this year. remember, they were fail-safe...or were they? how about a list?
  • yoga: ok, i didn't start in february due to financial reasons. but i did start in march, and i'm in the second week. that means lots of pain and frustration at backsliding, but general feeling of well-being and renewed sense of amazement at the awesomeness of yoga. and renewed crush on borja, my instructor.
  • 30th birthday: plans are moving along at lightening speed. mr. michael coming from brooklyn for roadtrip through northern portugual and northeastern spain. birthday bash planned for the following weekend. feeling wonderful about this birthday, check.
  • guitar: check. playing on terrace, check. but i'm still a little shy to play in front of other people. i'll work on this one.
  • edit the novel: not ready to hang the "mission accomplished" banner on this one quite yet. i did read it at the beginning of february, but i'm having a hard time uncapping the red pen for editing. it's not that i don't want to edit it, at least to a presentable-to-friends version, but process of editing a 120-page document seems imposing --not that writing one wasn't -- and arduous. i liked the productiveness of writing and what i expect to be the slow nitpicky-ness of editing just doesn't appeal to me in my free time. especially when there is a guitar to be played. any advice?
so overall, not so bad. 3 out of 4. and i still have 10.5 months. goals are fun!

and the cleanse, you ask? well, those results have been less visible. i'm on day 34 and faithfully sticking to the routine. in the cleanse's defense, i didn't have any of the symptoms or problems that it claims to heal, so i'm not sure what results i could have expected to see. my hair and skin are, well, fine. not sure i've lost weight. the inside of my colon feels...squeaky clean? i'll trust that it is.

so that's the update, folks. in the pipeline: a few visits from the us. a few trips planned. if you can believe it, the summer is already filling up. i have a new project in mind that i'd like to start, more about that soon, i hope.

04 March 2007

fresh air achieved

given all the weekends i spent hanging around my apartment and staying out all night, i can be proud of an accomplished plan to get out of the city. saturday i woke up relatively early and hopped on train with sights set on the distant mountains. i went to el escorial, a city in madrid province and skirted the giant monastery on the way to the fresh air of higher elevations.

i spent a few hours climbing over a mountain, stopping to take in the panoramas every so often. there is a great moment when you leave the crowds of families and people who drove up to the lookout point and the noise subsides and you find yourself alone in the quiet among the mossy rocks and occasional cowbell. there is another great moment, pictured above, when you reach a small valley between two peaks and begin your descent down the opposite side, and are rewarded with a whole new vista in front of you. for some reason the rocky hillsides gave me vertigo as i traversed across them.

and i did get my minimum recommended monthly dosage of fresh air, but check out that picture above. check out that hazy cloud, which became brown and heavier in the distance over madrid. it was as if i was looking through a flimsy curtain, as if everything had been bleached by years of sun. perhaps this is why i can't breathe?

meanwhile, i thoroughly enjoyed the day alone. i have to remember to do things like this more often. and today, back refreshed in the city, i had my first pre-season terrace get-together. a few new faces, one that will soon be gone, and a couple old favorites. ah, spring is here.