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Road Rules: Traveling over the holidays

My latest for Industry’s Nov/Dec issue. Road Rules: Or, how to holiday travel together without driving each other crazy.

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It’s the time of year when opportunities to travel together come up for both new and more seasoned couples. From Thanksgiving through December, Hannukkah, Ramadan, and Christmas come in fast succession. The whole yawning month of frenzied activity ramps up as the year comes to a close. For new couples this can be a trial by fire, as it can involve not just travel (a natural stressor for some) but also possibly meeting family, seeing childhood homes and friends, exes, etc. Here are a few things to think about when making your first trip as a couple.

Keep reading on Industry’s website here.

I had some real burnout this year writing about relationships, and, let’s be honest, even being involved in relationships. Is it a relief, a comfort, that we feel so perpetually renewed by the feeling of love, that we open our hearts again and again, that we build someone up, that we’re completely fascinated and want everything? I don’t know. I thought it was about time I just grew up and got over my romantic notions and got with reality. Relationships will disappoint you if you let them remain part of some watery province of melodrama. This year’s writing largely reflects my attempts to be more hard-nosed about it, but I can’t pretend I didn’t cross over into cynicism and bitterness occasionally. The more reality you let in, though, the more of a case is made for it, and the less it makes sense to cherry-pick experiences, feelings, people, moods. Suddenly it doesn’t matter what (or who) you do, but how you do it, how you respond.

See you in the new year, and thanks for everyone’s support. In 2014, I bought a house, started to feel truly autonomous and savvy, then got really busy, and now I’m back. I’m looking forward to much more content going up here, meaning more yoga, more publishing, and in general, more quirky, serious fun in 2015.

Happy holidays!

Turn around

Inside Game of Thrones

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Yes I know everyone’s obsessed with Breaking Bad right now, what can I say? Print waits for no show. In my latest article for Industry, I look at the themes of Game of Thrones, which offers a case study of personal politics and the rules of cause and effect, if we are paying attention. HBO shows do not kowtow to our hero myths, and one could argue that they’ve influenced mainstream entertainment away from the old watered down, picture-postcard universe of blockbuster fantasy (we won’t talk about Sex and the City right now). That’s why we love them (Sopranos, Enlightened, GoT) and why they are better than most TV, even most really good TV.  Plus, GoT has a lot of awesome female characters (looking at you, Breaking Bad, but I love you anyway!).

It is always interesting to think of why a certain trend happens at a certain time. And as little as I want to overstretch some tenuous pop cultural connection, it does seem strange that we are lapping up HBO’s Game of Thrones series’ political intrigue, lax morality, and wanton disregard for others’ personal freedom with an almost sociopathic appetite.

Read more here.

What Man Wants

“Pleasure, success, and duty are never man’s ultimate goals; at best they are means which we assume will take us in the direction of what we really want. What we really want are things which lie on a deeper level. First, we want being. . . , Second, we want to know, to be aware. . . , The third thing men seek is joy. . . Mention any good and man can always imagine a bit more of it and in doing so wish for that more. Medical science has doubled man’s life expectancy, but is man today more ready to die once that expectancy is reached? To state the full truth, then, we must say that what man would really like is infinite being, infinite knowledge, and infinite joy. Disregarding for the moment what he might have to settle for, these are what he would really like. To gather them together in a single word, what man really wants is liberation—complete release from the countless limitations that press so closely upon his present existence.”
The Religions of Man
– Huston Smith

What Are We Telling Ourselves Through Popular Love Songs?

My latest column for Industry Nov/Dec 2010

Tuning Out: Can love songs actually teach us something of value about that elusive state, or should we be making our own music?

When the relationship becomes a normal part of life, it becomes just another proof that outer circumstances do not really determine individual happiness. Most things disappear into the background, like a note I pin up to remind myself something, and which eventually fades into the wallpaper, beyond notice.

Life itself seems to teach that love is in so many ways more colorful and complex, but also harder and more scary, than most songs ever give testimony to. It takes guts to let down your guard and care for another, put yourself in the hands of another. There’s no guarantee you’ll be handled with care.

It takes a lot of days of negotiation, bad days as well as good, and of putting in the time to learn someone’s habits, of dealing with their ghosts, and not becoming haunted yourself,
to get to a few moments of Hollywood love. Transcendant, real, sometimes sad, heartbreaking moments of deep intimacy. But wait, am I just shoring up the mythology? It’s hard to talk about love without adding to the mystery.

Ryuichi Sakamoto at the Vic

I went to see Ryuichi in Chicago recently and wrote a review for Radio Free Chicago. His unobtrusive yet challenging melodic experiments sat alongside the more accessible, climactic soundtrack themes he has composed over the years. The highlights: zen-like glacial melt; the chunky chords and ballast of The Last Emperor; gentle loops.

Werner Herzog as Plastic Bag

Link: Werner Herzog as Plastic Bag

a 20-minute short featuring Werner Herzog’s poignant narration…

“They told me its out there, the Pacific Vortex, Paradise. You may be thinking, ‘Hey shut up and enjoy the sunset you idiot,’ well i don’t care what you think, no one needs me anymore—not even my maker. Do you know her, by chance? Have you seen her?”

and just gets better from there.

Resolution 1: Pay for Experiences, Not Things

The advent of Spring is a good time to revisit the resolutions I made for the year. This was the first.

1.    Pay for experiences, not products.

A very simple example would be yoga classes rather than yoga pants. Writing classes rather than fancy writing implements. Or a museum trip with a friend rather than shopping.

Not to put too fine a point on it; I have bought yoga pants fairly recently. But what I wear to yoga is not as important as the engagement I have in yoga. The feeling I get from doing yoga is what I really want, and looking good for yoga is a shallow well that dries up quickly.

So often we expect to buy a product and feel a certain way, or be perceived differently because of it. But our experiences are only as good as what we bring to them. We all know that person who you would hang out with to go pick up their dry cleaning, because she makes even doing errands fun.

I had a habit of always rushing through my errands. I wanted to get through them as soon as possible so that I could do something I really wanted to. Inevitably I would end up tired and without energy later to do much of anything. I was rushing through the rest of my life too, trying to get somewhere I wanted to be.

I had it totally backwards.

Now there are two options. We are all going to spend a certain amount of time in line at the DMV, or stuck in traffic on the highway. It can be a miserable toe-tapping experience, and I can sit there, neck tensed, breeding heart disease. But sometimes I notice how the line at the DMV is a very interesting spot to watch people from. Sitting on the highway is a heady kind of boredom, a good moment to put on a loud loud song and loosen up my body, or bang my head for my neighbors’ amusement. Or I can sit there and really let the boredom sink in.

Sometimes boredom is compelling.