Monday, January 31, 2011

Discount Ends Tomorrow!

I'm holding a yoga and meditation retreat from March 26-27 at the Portuincula Center for Prayer in Frankfort, Illinois - about 36 miles southwest of Chicago.

This is a super-shanti (peaceful) place, located in the middle of St. Francis Woods.

This retreat will focus on the eight limbs of yoga, including the ethical roots, scriptural study, pranayama (breathing), concentration, and direction towards the true goal of yoga - which is settle the mind into silence so that we can discover our true, peaceful nature. It will include Dharma Mittra's special Psychic Development practice, which will put power behind your thoughts. We will also chant and do plenty of postures!

Saturday evening’s session will end with Yoga Nidra, or deep relaxation – which Sri Dharma Mittra calls the greatest antidote to impurities. And then we'll sleep an extra hour, because this is the weekend that we turn back the clocks! On Sunday we will do a special Maha Sadhana - the one great eternal yoga practice - followed by a gourmet vegetarian lunch.

Suitable for all levels, this retreat starts Saturday at 9AM and ends Sunday at 1PM . It is perfect for those who wish to deepen their yoga practice and heal the body, mind and spirit.

In addition to the yoga practices, you can walk a sacred labyrinth in this magical, meditative setting (a labyrinth is an ancient meditation tool that can induce a receptive state of consciousness).

The 50-acre campus also includes peaceful sitting areas, grassy knolls, fountains, a creek, and hiking trails.

Cost for the one-night retreat (including lodging, vegetarian meals and instruction) is $175 for a private, single room. All rooms use a shared bath. After February 1, the price is $225.

Click here for more.

And see pictures from our November retreat here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ashtanga Articles from A to Z

I've just added another "pages" button at the top of the blog: Ashtanga Articles.

Here's the description:

Since 1998, I've written scores of articles for Yoga Chicago magazine about my trips to Mysore, New York and Florida to study with Pattabhi Jois, as well as pieces about my studies with a who's-who of senior ashtanga teachers, including:

Manju Jois
Lino Miele
Dena Kingsberg
Tim Miller
Annie Grover Pace
Eddie Stern
David Swenson
Richard Freeman
David Williams
Chuck Miller and Maty Ezraty
and so on.

These stories provide an invaluable wealth of knowledge about the practice of ashtanga vinyasa yoga.

Find a directory of my articles here. (To fine-tune your search, use the super-efficient engine at the top of the page).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A mini-revival of my old j-career, in this week's TimeOut Chicago

Film review
By Cara Jepsen

Dir. Zachary Levy. 2009. N/R. 113mins. Documentary.

“I can bend bars and break chains, but you can’t bend people,” says Stanley “Stanless Steel” Pleskun near the end of this intimate portrait of a self-taught, working-class-raised strongman searching for an audience. Pleskun, who’s billed as the Strongest Man in the World at Bending Steel and Metal, is determined to use clean living and positive thinking to transcend his dysfunctional background; after all, his perseverance has made him the only man in the world able to bend a penny with his bare hands. First-time director Levy spent ten years making this fly-on-the-wall documentary. He uses no interviews, narration or voiceover, but Pleskun’s story—he works by day salvaging scrap metal—allows for a gritty but nuanced commentary on the current state of the American Dream.

Levy never sentimentalizes or patronizes his subject. He focuses as much on Pleskun’s relationships with his girlfriend and family as his stunts, as well as the humiliations he suffers on the road to fame. (The promoters of a Florida appearance refuse to procure the right 10,000-pound truck for him to lift and then short him $500.) When things go awry, Pleskun clams up, or his voice drops and a flurry of f-bombs fly from his lips. But he never becomes violent or loses faith—even after he’s forced to move back to his childhood home in South Brunswick, New Jersey, and his brother fires up a crack pipe in welcome.

See my review in its full TOC glory here.

What I don't say in the review is that many of Pleskun's more famous contemporaries are tricksters and fakers, but he actually does the stunts (and he can actually do most of their faked ones with one hand tied behind his back).

To me, this film is about going beyond conditioned existence and living up to one's potential despite innumerable roadblocks; no matter how bad it gets, Pleskun pulls himself off the floor and keeps working towards his goal (sounds like yoga, no?). I also like that the director clearly has a relationship with his subject and never patronizes him (in interviews, Levy is humble - like his subject - and never call Pleskun a "character." Plus he moved hell and high water and mortgaged his future to get the film made). I also saw a lot of myself in him.

It's playing through Thursday at Facets. Levy will do a Q&A after the 7 p.m. screening on Tuesday, February 1.

Read more about the film here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Workshops with C.K. at YogaNow Gold Coast

Beat the Winter Blues: Yoga for Anxiety, Depression and Stress
Date: Fri 1/28/2011
Time: 7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Cost: $25 prepay // $30 Door

Is winter getting you down? In this workshop we will learn about the body-mind connection, and how timeless yoga techniques can be used to restore energy and cultivate a sense of inner peace. We will use basic yoga postures, breathing practices and chanting to manage symptoms associated with the cold season — such as lethargy, racing thoughts and negativity. We will also discuss how small changes in diet and lifestyle can help you manage your moods. You will go home armed with practical, time-tested tools to help you weather winter.

This workshop is suitable for all levels of student who are currently experiencing mild to moderate seasonal-related symptoms. It is not intended to be a substitute for therapy or medical treatment, but can serve as a support to current treatment.

Date: Sat 1/29/2011
Time: 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Cost: $25 prepay / $30 door

~Looking for a yoga practice that’s tailored to your needs?
~Curious about Mysore style practice but think you’re not "advanced" enough?
~Interested in learning Mysore-style in a relaxed space with other newbies?

This workshop will provide a step-by-step introduction to Mysore-style ashtanga
vinyasa yoga practice, with lots of time for questions and details.

Mysore-style ashtanga is the system of yoga taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, India, where students practice a sequence of poses at their own pace and instruction is given one-on-one. This safe, effective system is tailored to each student’s needs, and is suitable for everyone from beginners to seasoned practitioners who would like to transition into a Mysore-style practice.

Each student will receive a “cheat sheet” of the postures, and will be ready to develop a self-practice and join the morning Mysore classes at YogaNow.

Combined with today's YogaNowGroupon Deal ($49 for a month of unlimited classes), this is a ideal opportunity for newbies to learn ashtanga the traditional way.

More info on both workshops - and Maha Sadhanas on March 4 and April 23 - here

Photo by Dreyfus (c) 2010

Sunday, January 23, 2011

New NYT Piece about iPhone App Star Tara Stiles

The New York Times seems to run long yoga articles about once every quarter.

This time it's a piece called Rebel Yoga (a theme they seem to have latched onto and won't let go of), about aptly-named 29-year-old former model and Morris, IL native Tara Stiles, author of the 2010 best-seller, “Slim Calm Sexy."

The piece quotes a blog rant about the book by local yoga teacher Linda Sama.

I don't know much about Stiles or her book, except that I heard her once on Deepak Chopra's satellite radio show. She was teaching pranayama, and, according to my limited knowledge, it was not correct - which was a bit disconcerting, to say the least.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

TARA Stiles does not talk about sacred Hindu texts, personal intentions or chakras. She does not ask her yoga classes to chant. Her language is plainly Main Street: chaturangas are push-ups, the “sacrum” the lower back. She dismisses the ubiquitous yoga teacher-training certificates as rubber stamps, preferring to observe job candidates in action.

In her classes, videos and how-to book, “Slim Calm Sexy,” Ms. Stiles, a 29-year-old former model with skyscraper limbs and a goofball sensibility, focuses on the physical and health aspects of yoga, not the spiritual or the philosophical. For traditionalists, this is heresy, reducing what they see as a way of life to just another gym class....

...Among yoginis, Ms. Stiles’s own training remains an enduring mystery. Someone’s yoga lineage — whom you trained with and where — is often sized up as closely as a thoroughbred’s pedigree. It can impress, or not. But Ms. Stiles, who said she has a 200-hour certification but refused to say from where because she does not want to sanction the program (it is also absent from her bio), believes much of the training available in New York and elsewhere does little to actually prepare someone to teach yoga, and can give people a false sense of confidence. “I did training in New York City to teach yoga,” she said. “It was absolute crap. It’s not useful.”

Yet, she offers teacher training, of a sort, at Strala. It costs $2,500, although she plans to lower it to $1,500, and it takes place over four weekends; 25 students have completed the course so far. Asked about this seeming contradiction, she said she was responding to demand. And, she added, her training program emphasizes practical knowledge and looking inward for strength, not toward a guru or leader for empowerment.

The article is entertaining and amusing - especially the fact that the "yoga rebel's" iPhone App is called "Authentic Yoga." So as not to confuse it with all of that fake, inauthentic, chant-y, Sanskrit-y, eight limb-y, Indian yoga out there.

The fact is, these newer American teachers and their user-friendly systems are bringing more people to yoga - not a bad thing, as long as they are not hurting anyone and are careful when teaching pranayama (which, ahem, would fall under the category of traditional yoga).

Those who want to be challenged and/or go beyond the physical will inevitably find the right teacher.

Actually, I'm far more concerned with Sirius XM Stars's decision to replace Deepak Chopra's weekend timeslot with nonstop Dr. Laura.

Now that's something to rant about.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Temperatures in the negative double digits today

The streets were closed off when I left YogaNow this morning, to make way for the frigid Windy City visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao. Our lame-duck mayor has been working tirelessly to make Chicago an investment and corporate center for Chinese businesses. A cynic might say that, in other words, tax breaks will be given, deals will be cut, gobs of money will be made, and local manufacturers will suffer and eventually die off. You can hear an interview from yesterday's "Worldview" with fellow NewCity alumnus Ted Fishman, author of China, Inc., here.

When I got home, the temperature in the apartment was 63 - reminding me of the old place on Washtenaw. Kirby had been basking in the sun - smart kitty! - and didn't seem to mind. And I was happy that I'd stayed and practiced in the toasty room at YogaNow.

So I put on long underwear and a few more top layers, canceled this afternoon's movie outing with SportMarty (who was hiding under several layers of blankets), turned on the space heater, and put some (vegan) chili on the stove. (It tastes much better than it looks.... which is a bit like womit).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A reprise of this 2007 post.

It's because of my mother that I do yoga.

She died of cancer in 1997.

Up to that point, yoga was something I had always wanted to do but never had the time for; but after caring for her for seven months, I finally had the time.

Actually, it was a miserable time. As the executor of her will, I was trying to take care of her affairs and empty and sell her house -- all the while fighting with Dreyfus.

But I was able to enroll in a super-easy Wednesday night hatha yoga class at the Lincoln-Belmont YMCA. I was immediately hooked. Not only did I feel peaceful after class – but during class I did not think about my problems. It resonated like nothing else I have ever done.

I used to drive to class after working on my mother's house, which was 50 miles away. It was the highlight of the week - my lifeline.

One day I arrived late. I cracked open the door and heard what sounded like a dozen people hyperventilating. I cracked it a bit more and saw their chests heaving. Frightened, I slammed the door and ran.

The following week, all of the students were complaining about the substitute teacher. "You were lucky you missed it," they said. The class had been too hard; she'd been "too aerobic."

Intrigued, I found out her name and immediately signed up for her class. She was a Sivananda teacher from Eastern Europe, and she was terrific.

Soon, I was taking her class three times a week at the YMCA.

But it still wasn't enough.

I looked in the phone book and found my way to the N.U. Yoga Center and the ashtanga vinyasa yoga classes taught by Suddha Weixler and Eric Powell (who now teaches ashtanga in New York). I felt like I had come home. In no time, I bought a monthly pass and went to class every day – and sometimes twice a day.

In 1998 Eric told me he was leaving Chicago. He suggested I enroll in Suddha’s teacher training and take over some of his classes.

I was appalled, and said "No way."

But Eric wouldn't relent, and soon Suddha was also encouraging me to do it. So I followed their advice.

By the end of 1998 I was teaching. Unlike, say, journalism, it was one of the easiest and most natural things I have ever done (well, until recently anyway).

And I have my mother to thank for it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ahisma goes beyond mere action....

All of the talk about accountability and hate speech in the wake of the Arizona shooting reminds me of how difficult (and important) it is to adhere to the ethical roots of raja yoga.

The ethical roots are known as the Yamas, which are:

-ahimsa or non-violence
-satya or truthfulness
-asteya or non-stealing
-brahmacharya or celibacy
-aparigraha or non-greed

The Yamas are so profound and difficult to adhere to because they are meant to be practiced in word, thought and deed.

In other words, it is a given that ahimsa or non-harming means that one should not act on an impulse to harm another being (for example, one should refrain from kicking in someone's car window while in throes of road rage, however justified). This is relatively easy for most of us to accomplish in most situations.

It's a bit harder to practice ahimsa in word or speech. In other words (ha!), one should not flip off the other motorist or call them names (even under the breath) or suggest that others engage in violent acts towards them. Even though it's "just" speech, there are repercussions for all kama (action).

Far more difficult is practicing ahimsa in thought, because thoughts are even harder to control. This means not only refraining from violently engaging the other driver, but also from speaking badly of them OR thinking bad thoughts about them (such as imagining what you'd like to do to them). Even though it's "just" a thought, thoughts are incredibly powerful and there will be repercussions. To paraphrase Chandra, you can be certain that if you have a negative thought about someone, it will find its target.

And as Amma says, anger is like a knife with two blades; it harms both parties.

So if you follow the raja yoga system, which is the one outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, then at some point, hopefully, there comes the realization that one must be responsible and accountable not only for their actions, but also their speech and their thoughts.

The difference is just a matter of degree.



There are ten Yamas in traditional Hinduism:

1. Ahimsa
or Non-injury
2. Satya or
3. Asteya
or Nonstealing
4. Brahmacharya
or Sexual Purity
5. Kshama
or Patience
6. Dhriti
or Steadfastness
7. Daya or
8. Arjava
or Honesty
9. Mitahara
or Moderate Diet
10. Saucha
or Purity

Monday, January 10, 2011

Back to School

Mondays 6:30-7:45 Ashtanga Half Primary Series Level I-III

January 10-January 31; $36 member, $68 non-members (4 weeks)
February 7-March 7; $45 members, $80 non-members (5 weeks)

Fridays 10-11 Dharma Mittra Hatha Flow Level I-III

Pre-registration required. Sign up here.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Please! No more texts between 9pm and 9am.
(No calls, either!)

Most days, I'm in bed by 10pm.

I'm up by 4:30am.

Most people who have my phone number know this.

Yet the other night a dear friend decided to send me a chatty text after 11pm.

It immediately woke me up. I immediately sent a reply:

"Plz no txts after 9pm!!! I get up at 4:30am!!!"

The next day the friend sent a text wanting to know why I didn't want her to text late at night: Because she wouldn't get a quick reply? Or because the phone alerts me to every text and wakes me up?

It's the latter - as I stated in my text.


Like many people, I use the cell phone as a backup alarm.

It sits on the nightstand, next to the bed.

I keep the volume on "high," because I must wear earplugs to sleep. (If I didn't wear earplugs, I'd be up all night with the upstairs neighbors - insomniacs who are awake and pacing on the very creaky wood floors and banging stuff around directly over my head every 90 minutes all night every night without fail).

So please! No texts between 9pm and 9am.

* * *

A couple of weeks ago I was enjoying a blissful late-morning slumber on the only day I get to sleep in. I was thrilled to finally catch up on much-needed sleep.

That is, until I heard the phone chime at 7:15am - when a friend who had been learning ashtanga from me texted me to let me know he'd just done a self-practice (he'd been scolded earlier in the week for not practicing between lessons).

I wrote back and asked him to stop sending early-morning text messages.

A week later, I had another opportunity to sleep in. The mind and body were in a state of deep, dreamless sleep.

That is, until I heard the phone chime, letting me know I had a new text message.

It was the same fellow, letting me know he'd practiced again. At 7am

Again, he'd awakened me on the only day I could sleep in.

Again, he'd sent me information I did not request.

I asked him what part of "Plz no txts b4 9am!!!" he didn't understand.

"But you've written e-mails to me at 5am - I checked."

Um, yes, - on a day when I teach yoga at 6am. NOT on a day off.

And I asked you, nicely, not to text early in the morning!

The mind was so incensed, the fingers could not reply.

And there have been no lessons since.

* * *

Lest you think this is just me, my friend J - who keeps similar hours and also uses his phone as a backup alarm - has had the exact same thing happen to him, again and again.

Only his friends are a lot younger.

They text him from bars, at 3am.

They send him funny pictures.

And they're certainly not texting him about yoga.

* * *

I propose we return to the rules that applied during the days of the rotary-dial landline telephones.

In those days, there were two phones in the house. One was affixed to the kitchen wall and the other was on your mother's nightstand - and you couldn't turn down the ringer on either one.

In those days, people simply didn't call between 9pm and 9am, because they knew it would disturb the peace.

They knew it was impolite and uncouth to call too early or too late.

And when someone did call between 9pm and 9am, it meant there was a real emergency.

Not that someone had finally done their ashtanga practice.

So please! No more texts (or calls) between 9pm and 9am.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


My mentor and friend Robert Feder is back on the media beat - this time at TimeOut Chicago.

Read his column here (and don't forget to check out his list of Fellow Travelers and Tweet-list on the right; you may see a familiar name or two).

You can read my media column about his media column here.


My column leads with a piece about a 1977 copy of Triad magazine I dug up while hunting for records with my pal Jim Sclavunos, who plays drums in Grinderman and percussion in Nick Cave's Bad Seeds.

The mag features a long interview with Chicago move critic Roger Ebert about the script he wrote for a Sex Pistols movie that was to be directed by Russ Meyer.

It turns out that Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten were fans of 1970's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, which was penned by Ebert and directed by Meyer, and wanted the same team to work on their film.

Marianne Faithfull was cast as Sid's mother, and one scene was actually shot -- where Bambi was killed.

And then it all fell apart.

“There is more than one account of what went wrong,” Ebert wrote on his blog last year.

You can read his screenplay here.

Read my column about it (and see some more quotes from Ebert) here.

Read Feder's colunn about Ebert's latest TV venture here.

And hear amazing vintage Triad radio broadcasts (complete with head shop ads) here.

And a rare Triad radio interview with Kraftwerk here.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Holiday time = movie time

PYAASA (Thirsty) *****
I watched this 1959 Hindi masterpiece on New Year's Eve. Wow, wow and wow. I've known about the great writer-director-actor Guru Dutt since the early 1990s, when the Film Center did a retrospective of his work. But I'd never actually seen his fims. What was I waiting for? This film is all soul, from start to finish, and somehow affected me far more than the masterpieces of the great Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray.

This one stars the handsome Dutt as Vijay, a penniless poet who has been thrown on the streets by his avaricious brothers - who have sold his poetry for the price of the paper they're written on. Vijay hears his songs sung by a prostitute named Gulab (Waheeda Rehman), who lures him up to her lair but throws him out once she realizes he has no money. Vijay wanders the poor area of town, where he has many friends - including the hair-oil massage man, whose business picks up as soon as he starts singing a poem Vijay penned for him (the film's wonderful soundtrack is by the great S.D. Burman). Eventually, Gulab realizes Vijay's talent, as does the husband of his college-time sweetheart. The latter is a big-time publisher who hires him as a servant, and then eventually fires him. Then Vijay's mother dies, and he contemplates suicide at the railway tracks. In a scene straight out of It's a Wonderful Life, another homeless man sees what he's up to, and pretends to get his leg caught in the railroad track. Vijay forgets his quest in order to save him - only they both end up getting run over by a train (this is why I love Indian movies). The newspapers carry the news of Vijay's death, and Gulab uses her life savings to have his poems published by the ex-sweetheart's husband. They're an instant hit. Long story short, Vijay survives the train and is interred in an insane asylum by the publisher and his own brothers, who are raking in the proceeds from his poems. The ending is stunning. It's all shot beautifully, the acting is top-notch - better than any European art film I've ever seen - and the story is utterly compelling. Many, many tears were shed while watching this exquisite piece of art. I cannot wait to see the rest of his oeuvre (NOTE: Guru Dutt's real name was Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone, and he was born in Bangalore, Karnataka. His wife, Geeta Dutt, is the main playback singer in this film).

I saw this 2002 documentary on New Year's Day. It promises to let the viewer in on the secret practices of Tibetan yogis who spend years holed up in mountain retreats in order to achieve enlightenment. But it spends a lot of time on the history of Buddhism in Tibet (it was imported from India and adapted to include the many gods and stories that already existed there). It shows how the religion spread throughout the land, and explained that one out of six Tibetans was a monk when China invaded in 1949. It also tells the heartbreaking story of the Dalai Lama's exit in 1959, and Tibetan exile in India. I recommended it just for this. Finally, they get to the yogis, and even show a few of their practices - one of which appears to be a rather extreme version of Maha Vedha. The monks allude to their practices, but don't give much away - despite the fact that the practices are dying out and not being passed on due to the invasion and population dying / moving, etc. They show a stone box where the yogis do their sitting in the mountains. One of them explained that they sit there day and night and do not sleep. They also interviewed the Dalai Lama, who told the famous story of the monk who was imprisoned by the Chinese for many years. He told the Dalai Lama he was in great danger. But not from his enemies. He wasn't worried about that. Instead, he said he was in danger of losing compassion for them.
Click here to about the difficulties of filming this movie.

A better title for this 1985 film would have been "No Country for Old Women." It takes place in the 1940s and stars Geraldine Page in an Oscar-winning role as a Carrie Watts, an elderly woman who is a virtual slave in the small Houston apartment of her son and his vapid, overbearing wife. Carrie's only goal in life is to return to Bountiful, the bucolic coastal town where she spent her formative years. But her son won't let her go because of her weak heart, and his wife has control of her pension check. Finally, Carrie escapes and takes a bus as far is it will go. After many incidents and close calls, she finally gets to Bountiful - only to learn that her sole remaining friend there died a few days ago, and that the entire town is empty. This film was clearly based on a play and had some stage-y scenes, but I liked it anyway - especially the lyrical nature and period details and wonderful supporting work by Rebecca De Mornay as a fellow bus passenger and the underrated Richard Bradford as the kindly Sheriff. Again, may tears were shed. Watching it made me realize how much easier it is nowadays for the fairer sex to earn a living and have some say over where and how they live....although one still can't help but worry about being a bag lady one day. It also made me long for life in the country.

* * *

Click here to learn more about Pyaasa.

Some lyrics from the song:

I wonder what kind of people are those, who get love for love.

When we asked for buds, we got thorns instead.

When we searched for destination of happiness, we got paths of sorrows instead.

We longed for songs of affections, got cold wishes instead.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Holiday time = movie time

This Ernst Lubitsch-directed Christmas classic is one of my favorites, and I saw it on TCM, just before Christmas. The 1940 film is set in Budapest and is based on a 1937 Hungarian play Parfumerie, written by Miklós László. Over the years it inspired many later versions, including In the Good Old Summertime, You've Got Mail and the British TV show Are you Being Served? This one stars Margaret Sullivan and Jimmy Stewart as two bickering co-workers who are secret pen pals that fall in love via their letters. My favorite moment happens when Stewart is sacked from the job he has held for eons - and performs like a pro - for no apparent reason. That man can act! Watching his face turn from astonishment to deep hurt is utterly priceless and spot-on.... and, sadly, oh-so-familiar.

The Dreyfuses and I watched this 2008 Mike Leigh film on Christmas. Although Leigh is one of my all-time favourite directors (I also love Ken Loach, Ming-liang Tsai, John Cassavettes, Claire Denis and Guru Dutt), I found this one to be a bit lacking. It's about a happy, batty young schoolteacher (Sally Hawkins) whose bike is nicked, so she must take driving lessons with a stiff old stuffed shirt (Eddie Marsan) who repeatedly describes himself as a great driving instructor, and explains that the really great instructors work at the smallest companies that have the most reasonable prices. This last bit made me think of my sorry lot as a long-time yoga instructor, and made me laugh. The scene where he melted down and sucked some of the heroine's wacky joy out of her was rather priceless - as was the one where the spicy flamenco instructor also lost her cool. Overall a good movie - and a sweet one, too. But it seemed to lack the urgency of Leigh's earlier work.

The Dreyfuses and I watched this Cohen Brothers film on Christmas night, and it reminded me yet again of why I am not a fan. I should not have been surprised, since this one was about a so-called psycho killer played by Javier Bardem....only I'd forgotten that part. The Brothers are indeed arch and clever and knowing, but that gets old after awhile; I much prefer soul to style. My biggest gripe is that they have us rooting for the young hero (Josh Brolin) from the start, as he narrowly escapes death again and again. Finally, after we are completely invested in his fate, he is killed - only it doesn't take place onscreen. It makes one feel rather manipulated, to say the least. The film also has an obsession with process and mechanics when it comes to such things as hiding money in heating ducts and blowing up a car. This obsession appears to be directly lifted from the silent 29-minute robbery sequence in the Jules Dassin-directed 1959 French heist masterpiece, Rififi. As my grand-niece would say, "I've seen that before." And much better, too. Nonetheless the film won many Academy Awards and most moviegoers seem to love it. (NOTE: Jonathan Rosenbaum didn't like it, either. Read his review here).

Saturday, January 01, 2011

GO VEG IN 2011
"The compassion must extend beyond the pets" - Sri Dharma Mittra

Thinking about giving up meat?

Chicago has many vegetarian restaurants, and my recent guide to changes in the local non-meat scene makes it easy.

One of my recent discoveries is Karyn's on Green - a gorgeous restaurant that features live and cooked options (including southern comfort food) but doesn't rub your face in the fact that it's meat-free. Paulie Zink and I checked it out in November, and it was amazing:

This upscale vegan restaurant in Greektown opened in January 2010 and is the latest addition to Karyn Calabrese's vegetarian restaurant empire. The elegant, Zenlike interior features a wall waterfall, a Buddha bamboo garden, a super-high ceiling, an upstairs lounge, and a 22-seat bar serving organic cocktails and mocktails. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday plus Sunday brunch, the eclectic menu includes the best of Karyn's other two vegetarian restaurants; live food and soul food. Dinners can be ordered as small plates ($9 to $13) or large plates ($12 to $20) and include pizzas, soups, salads, and sides such as kale slaw and raw crackers. The plates range from raw pasta to marinated portobello steak to fried “chicken” legs to chorizo sliders made of portobello “bacon,” frisée, cheddar, chipotle aioli, and tomato-pepper jam. The menu is annotated with (R) raw, (GF) gluten free, (SF) soy free, and (NF) (nut/seed) free items; the desserts include chocolate terrine, peach cobbler, and sweet crispy polenta with thyme ice cream . We loved the tofu gumbo, pumpkin risotto, and massive side order of crisp, perfectly seasoned steak fries. The menu is organic whenever possible, and there's an eight-top communal table that seats single diners. Closed Mondays.

See the rest of my Yoga Chicago guide here.

If you're still not convinced, here's an excerpt from my 2010 article about going veg. gradually (and saving the world):

I began eliminating meat from my diet in 1987, when I started feeling sorry for the cows (I grew up on a farm that had cows, and eventually their soft, innocent eyes got to me). First, I cut out the big mammals--beef and pork. I made do by eating a lot of poultry for a few months--until a sweltering summer day, when I saw a truckload of chickens crammed into crates and gasping for breath. I immediately gave up eating anything with wings. A few months later, I cut fish out of the diet; after all, they suffer too. For me, the diet stuck because I did it gradually; I have many friends who went vegetarian abruptly and fell off the wagon, hard, a short time later. At first, my diet was not good; I ate a lot of grilled cheese, enchiladas, French fries, and other vegetarian "junk" food. Then I got a job at Chicago Diner and learned how to eat and prepare healthy meals. Finally, many years later, I cut out eggs.

Many experts agree that it's easiest to eliminate one type of meat at a time. Or, simply eat one meal a week without meat. One easy way to transition is to substitute tofu, tempeh, or other meat alternatives in your favorite recipes.

Read the rest here.

Click here for a complete list of my vegetarian restaurant reviews.


Tattoo pic courtesy of this website, which states, "Vegetarians will appreciate this animal rights-themed tattoo, in which a cow, pig and chicken hold up signs that read 'If I barked… or purred… would you still eat me?'"