Adho mukha svanasana, you moron

The yoga studio has a little retail rack of garments (yogawear, I guess) and books. One book stands out as a little incongruous: “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Chakras”.

It stands out because, after almost eight years of sporadic yoga practice, none of my instructors—even the gruffer ones—ever uttered the word “idiot” or any of its synonyms. Yoga teachers are usually pretty mellow and non-judgmental. Listening to them sometimes I wonder if they think there is a right or wrong way to do anything.

“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Chakras” seems like a mismatch between marketing hyberbole and the inner peace yoga is supposed to provide.

Bury it in the yard

I agree that nuclear power plants are pretty safe. What I find disturbing is how boosters of nuclear power always manage to ignore the inconvenient matter of how to transport and dispose of the super-toxic stuff that comes out of them.

An article in Slate today wisely cautions against overreacting to the disaster in Japan but, again, no mention of the nuclear waste problem. Another great example of the news media’s willful ignorance and its failure to ask obvious questions.

Tool talk

I wonder if you stay in the Senate long enough you would start to believe your own double-talk. Probably. I think of that whenever I hear from Senator Chuck Grassley. Here’s my counter-response to a letter I sent regarding federal funding for public broadcasting:

Thank you for responding to my letter about continuing federal funding for public broadcasting. In it, you mentioned that Congress has to “make some tough decisions to reign in spending.”

Really? In your opinion column in yesterday’s Des Moines Register you went on and on about the need for subsidies and tax breaks so we can turn our food supply into gasoline. So are you really interested in making tough decisions? Making tough choices should include giving up Iowa’s corn ethanol hobby horse.

You also mentioned that if I was interested in supporting public broadcasting I ought to contribute to my local station. Yet, even though I live in a two-bedroom apartment, I contribute a couple hundred dollars a year to public broadcasting. I enjoy public broadcasting precisely because it is public, and wish for it to remain so.

I was thoroughly annoyed by your response.

I agree it lacks the sardonic finesse I usually try to put on my letters to public officials, but I was pretty incensed. If you don’t understand why, then read his impassioned defense of our state’s corn ethanol boondoggle.

Thank you for responding to my letter about continuing federal funding for public broadcasting. In it, you mentioned that Congress has to "make some tough decisions to reign in spending."

Really? In your opinion column in yesterday's Des Moines Register you went on and on about the need for subsidies and tax breaks so we can turn our food supply into gasoline. So are you really interested in making tough decisions? Making tough choices should include giving up Iowa's corn ethanol hobby horse.

You also mentioned that if I was interested in supporting public broadcasting I ought to contribute to my local station. Yet, even though I live in a two-bedroom apartment, I contribute a couple hundred dollars a year to public broadcasting. I enjoy public broadcasting precisely because it is public, and wish for it to remain so.

I was thoroughly annoyed by your response.

Team of Rivals

“Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin starts out slow and tedious. It’s about Abraham Lincoln’s shrewd rise to power and his deft handling of the complicated politics of the Civil War. But to get there we have to read through mini-biographies of the three other Republicans who wanted to be president in 1860: William Henry Seward, Salmon Chase, and Edward Bates. Ever heard of Attorney-General Edward Bates? He was boring. He could barely bring himself to leave his home, yet somehow hoped to become president. Ah, the 19th century, when folks could look to any rich white man for uninspiring, flimsy leadership.

Once all that unpleasant reading (about 300 pages) is over with, it’s a really good book about Lincoln. We tend to think of him as a martyred saint, but he was really a super-politican. He traded favors and made deals, but did so without alienating his own core principles and while keeping his eye on accomplishing his mission. In reading “Team of Rivals” I didn’t find him talking himself into making outrageous compromises simply for the sake of making compromises, but because they furthered his greater goal of unifying the country under a more just order. Our present leader could take a cue here.

Books about Lincoln are often mention what an avid and effective story-teller he was, yet they always fail to relate any of these stories. Goodwin must have sensed my frustration with this and included several examples to illustrate.

Fire the painter

There’s a new sandwich place downtown. As I walked by this evening I noticed it had finally opened. The interior is brightly colored and has big—I guess you could call them New Age-inspired—murals painted on the walls. One mural has an American Indian fellow with something emerging from his mouth. I think he’s supposed to be Nanook of the North or whoever and the thing coming out of his mouth might be an Alberta Clipper. But it just looks like he’s  vomiting a quart of skim milk. Not very appetizing but it did get my attention.

Cedar Rapids (the movie)

We’ve heard a lot of good things about “The King’s Speech”. It got great reviews, my friend recommended it to me, plus it won all those awards. So naturally we went to see “Cedar Rapids” tonight.

I admit I just wanted to see it out of curiosity, and to see what it made out of our local metropolis. “Cedar Rapids” is showing on two screens at our sleepy neighborhood multiplex (“The King’s Speech” on just one, sorry). The theater was about as close to full as I’ve ever seen it and the audience was—dare I say—excited.

Maybe the buoyant crowd offered some synergy, but it turns out “Cedar Rapids” is a lot of fun. The main character is so naive and unworldly that at first he’s almost not funny. Then John C. Reilly bursts on the scene and gives him an excuse to color outside the lines. Reilly’s made a name for himself in comic roles, but he is a very good actor.

Anyone who has ever gone to an out-of-town conference for a few days and had a good time with some new friends can appreciate “Cedar Rapids” (though I’ve never had quite that much excitement). And the performers got the precariously repressed demeanor of Midwesterners right enough that they weren’t too far into the territory of the “Hollywood Midwest”.

I say make another. How about “King of Iowa City”, about a drug lord building his empire right here in the UNESCO City of Literature? Maybe I’ll write it if somebody dares me.