Thursday, February 26, 2009

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out


This week, the Nielsen media-trackers announced that the average American now watches an all-time high of 151 hours of television a month. Five hours a day. This number is up from last year, when we only watched 145 hours of television a month. This number, of course, does not include movies, anything on-line, video phones, or the eight hours a day most of us spend in front of a computer at work. This number, as frightening as it is, does not tell us the more important piece of information, total screen time. But if you work a desk job and watch your five hours a day of tv, you're already spending more than half your day, and ultimately your life, staring into a screen. As something of an understatement, we need to consider the connections between our 25% rate of obesity nationwide, the rising occurrence of diabetes, and the estimated 10 percent of the population suffering from depression at any given moment and how much screen time we get. But more than anything, we need to get up. Stand up, walk around, do your dishes, some tai chi, taxes, whatever. Life is short, participate.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Three Monkeys


In case you have, in these heady post-inauguration days, forgotten that Dick Cheney is still alive and evil, allow me to jog your memory. For the five years prior to becoming vice president, Dick Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton, an oil, engineering and warmongering company. During that time, while he wasn't busy establishing the geopolitical ties that would eventually result in the issuing of several open ended and profit-guaranteed federal contracts in Iraq and sundry other countries being ravaged by American foreign policy, he occupied himself violating human rights and international business law.

A dichotomy. In 2003, Cheney was quoted on NBC saying that since becoming vice president he had, "severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interest. I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven't had, now, for over three years." According to Harper's Magazine, the Bush campaign paid Enron and Halliburton $15,400 for the use of corporate jets during the election recount.

And another. Cheney's office ordered an electric company to restore power to two oil pipelines one day after Hurricane Katrina. It took the administration four days to authorize sending federal troops into New Orleans.

And an aside. Cheney's Energy Task Force investigated Iraq's oil resources six months before September 11, 2001.

I could go on. I could rant and rage and curse and wail...or I could simply say, this is not a man to be forgotten. And he is still a man of power. We can't afford to turn a blind eye to Cheney and anyone that profits from his association, we can't stop listening to the cautionary voices, and we can't afford to remain silent.

The image above may be subject to copywrite.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Red Shoe Diaries

Right now, between work, dance, and life, this is how I feel. Up against the wall, pushing. Pushing to meet deadlines, maintain relationships, and meet obligations. Pushing to be stronger, faster, better, legs higher, more graceful, we'd like to see that be a double, can you get a beat in there before you land? And always, always, my feet hurt. There's a unique form of exhaustion related to being a dancer. At best, it leaves you fatigued, just on the edge of truly aching through your whole body, at worst, it leaves you sore to the touch, stiff, shin-splinted, bruised and bleeding. I think that one of the driving forces in dance is the concept of "never enough". There will always be someone in the room doing it better than you, there will always be room for improvement. And in time, you learn that your body will, in fact, always give you a little more. But it means you have to push. Always.
Complacency in dance, as in most things in life, breeds inaction and mediocrity, the all too familiar dangerous and unfulfilling tenants of our modern society. Right now, I struggle to find my point of balance, that place between the push and pulls of life that allows me to manifest the things I work for.
"I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing."~ Hillel

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I'm Sorry Baby


Domestic violence and emotional abuse are closely linked, emotional abuse often being a "gateway drug" to full blown physical violence. Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, screaming, ridicule and name-calling. Constant criticism, threats, social isolation, exploitation, intimidation and stalking are also forms of emotional abuse. Statistics on emotional abuse are hard to come by, but most experts agree that the numbers far outreach those for physical abuse.
The numbers: Nationally, one in four women, regardless of class or race, is expected to experience domestic violence in her lifetime. 75% of women reporting rape stated their attacker was an intimate partner of some kind. Three women a day are murdered a day by their intimate partners.

But it doesn't take fists to to traumatize or victimize a partner. Yelling, insults, emotional blackmail, unjustified accusations, and behavioral punishment can be just as hurtful and damaging as physical violence. And emotional abuse is much harder to identify.

On average, only 21% of victims are thought to seek outside help.

Abuse victims are generally ashamed of it, in part because they have been manipulated to believe that they deserve it, but also because abusers are often good at hiding their behaviors, reserving them for home. So they don't tell anyone. But its real, and scary, and sad. And entirely preventable. Perhaps there should be a place in all our discussions of change for those changes that must begin at home. Perhaps our greater humanity is more closely tied to our treatment of those closest to us, the ones we claim to love, the ones we share our lives with, than we are willing to admit. We cry out against the treatment of our detainees, but let our friends, family members, neighbors, coworkers suffer in silence.

We will not achieve compassion on the global stage if we do not address our treatment of one another in the simple goings on of everyday life.

If you need help:
National Domestic Violence Hotline1-800-799-SAFE (7233)1-800-787-3224 (TDD)

Statistics Courtesy of :
Domestic Violence Resource Center P.O. Box 494 Hillsboro, OR 97123 p 503.640.5352 f 503.648.6905

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Economy: On the Dole

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the number of unemployed persons in the U.S. has increased by 4.1 million in the last twelve months. That's half the population of New York City, or forty times the population of Eugene, Oregon. It's entire towns, graduating classes, families. And we haven't begun to see the beginning of the worst. There is still savings to burn, pension plans to liquidate, homes to sell, unemployment benefits to be had. But soon, there won't be. A time will come, perhaps quite soon, that Americans will have to do something they haven't done in a very long time, rely on the kindness, generosity, and ingenuity of their communities.
I would feel better about this prospect if we, as a nation, had shown some kind of aptitude for either community building or compassion, but we haven't. This is evidenced by our continued support of faith systems and policy makers that divide us based on arbitrary and often harmful stereotypes, greed, and outdated value systems and paradigms.
But we voted for change, and it will not come passively. It is time to fight the good fight.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Our Boys and Girls


The US Army announced last week that 24 soldiers are thought to have committed suicide in January. That's six times the number of suicides in January of 2008. More than 30% of service men and women seek out psychological help after deployment, in spite of existing stigmas. For comparison, 16 Army personnel were lost in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq this January. A senior Army official reporting these numbers characterized them as "terrifying".

And it is. And it's our young people. And we are ruining them to preserve and protect a status quo, a bygone value system, and an imaginary economic dominance. Do any of us even know anymore if they are supposed to be protecting us or we are supposed to be protecting them?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

F*ck That Giant Rodent


I grew up in Oregon and I profess to love the rain, but my true feelings were revealed in the sunshine of the last two days. It was glorious. We forget, in the grey days and long nights of winter how great it feels to stand in the sunlight. We forget that we need it. The sun regulates our melatonin and gives us vitamin D. It makes the plants grow and the birds sing. An emergent winter sun is a tangible reminder of hope. So go, out, into the sun, soak it up, and hang on for six more weeks.

Monday, February 2, 2009

If a Tree Falls


Barack and Michelle Obama entering the inaugural ball on January 20, 2009. What strikes me about this image is that everyone in the audience is viewing the moment via their cell phones and cameras. Not just the press corps, but the attendees, everyone.

This is a phenomenon that I struggle with. Which is more important, participating in the moment, or documenting it? This was an easier question when our technology was still cumbersome and unfamiliar (picture the annoying Dad carrying an eight pound video recorder through an entire family vacation). But now, it's not as easy to draw a line between participation and documentation.

Which is more important, experiencing the moment fully, or being able to share it almost instantaneously with your family, friends, or blog followers? Is the experience somehow enhanced by being able to share it in nearly real time? Is the experience somehow diminished if it's not recorded? That seems to be the modern consensus if the picture above carries any significance. But then, there was a press corps present, a member of which took the picture, so the moment above was, in fact, being recorded. What's astounding is how many people felt the need to record it themselves.

I worry that we are entering an era in which our identities are somehow so tied to other people, that we will all become trees in the forest, afraid that our experiences, our lives, ourselves, will be lost, or perhaps not exist at all, if no one is around to witness it.