Japhy Rider

14 08 2010

Really cool band I encountered with my coworkers in Burlington VT after dinner one night down on Church St. Chill, reggaeish, mellow. Love it.

“Green, which is Nature’s colour, is restful, soothing, cheerful, and health-giving.” -Paul Brunton

22 04 2010

***WARNING – This post contains a high volume of gardening metaphors. If you are a pessimist by nature, proceed with caution.***

An Icelandic volcano haulting air travel in large parts of Europe during Earth Week (how green!), new fascinating images of the sun from a NASA telescope (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8635207.stm), and me obsessively gardening? Coincidence? I think not.

After a cold, harsh winter (in every way possible) it’s finally SPRING! That gorgeous time of the year when new leaves manage to creep out of desolate grey branches, when the weather is conducive (if only for a few weeks) to walking outside every morning without fear of heat stroke, swinging on the swings with your little siblings, and breathing fresh oxygen. When the sun shines bright but the wind cools down. When my hair smells like cut grass the second I step outside, no matter how strong my sulfate-free shampoo smells of juniper. Its fleeting, and precious, but absolutely giddying. It almost makes me think twice about moving to cloudy, grey London…almost.

I received a few comments from many of you regarding my last few posts being disturbingly bleak and frustrated…and yes, I was feeling bleak and slightly frustrated, but moods and outlooks have changed. Priorities have aligned and progress is being made. Layers of angst have shed and new leaves of thought have emerged with the hope of blossoming creativity and eventual fruits of labor.  And it all began with one nostalgic email from my gardening club at UT and a trip to Lowes.

I have been obsessively gardening for the past few weeks almost immediately after my last post, and the improvement and growth (for both my garden and I) has been incredible. There is something to be said about being connected, physically, to the Earth. Having your hands in the soil, the sun on your back, and the wind in your hair is luxuriously rewarding and rejuvenating. The spa’s of the world would go out of business if people discovered the lasting peace of mind that comes from a day spent in your garden. The act of digging and burying is fantastically lethargic, and even simply looking at the color green of your plants and the blue-white of the sky brings an immense sense of relaxation to the mind on a psychological level. For around $150 dollars and loads of love and care, I have my therapy. Worth it? You tell me.

I will try to document the progress (of both my life and my garden) throughout the Spring and keep you posted. As for the oil spill off the coast of Texas, the meager carbon pledges of nearly every nation at the UN summit in Copenhagen resulting in a 3 degree Celsius raise in the world’s temperature, and the inevitable destruction of this beautiful planet we live on? That can be for tomorrow in my book. Today, we have to be optimistic and celebrate the good.

Happy Earth Day everyone 🙂

My last post seemed to work…

22 03 2010

“It’s never been about abstractions. The fight between right or left. Republican or Democrat. It’s always been about something far more personal:

It’s about every American who knows the shock of opening an envelope to see that the premiums just shot up again when times are already tough enough. It’s about every parent who knows the desperation of trying to cover a child with a chronic illness only to be told ‘no’ again and again and again. It’s about every small business owner forced to choose between insuring employees and staying open for business. They are why we committed ourselves to this cause. Tonight’s vote is not a victory for any one party, it’s a victory for them. It’s a victory for the American people. And its  a victory for common sense.”

Change really is possible in a system this screwed up. I know ive been going through a cynical period but here is that sliver of hope…that everyone who voted for Obama also believed in. It’s phenomenal that something so big can be accomplished on such a high level. I have been feeling so defeated as of late, that you really can’t make a difference worth noticing in a system this suffocating and deliberate. It is most of the reason I want to leave the US (for anywhere that I can fit in better) and breathe again without feeling like I just got screwed over for something I can’t even control. I am not white, I am not a male, I am a Muslim, I am a first generation born American, etc. It weighs on a person like me, the burden and the beauty of these stones you carry with you, that are a part of you. You can try to fight it and challenge the manner in which people think, but at the end of the day, the system is still the same. Some new-hire at CVS will still get spoken to with more respect than me because he is a male and white. And I will continue to endure pangs of self-doubt and awkward silences when someone discovers my religion. And my father will continue to pay the equivalent of my annual income to insurance companies to cover our families health insurance because my mother had breast cancer and because he has no other choice…

Until now.

Today, for the first time in my life that I can probably remember and appreciate, a person in a mighty position of power has done something for a person like me.  Because its common sense.

It’s a good feeling.

The Benjamins, baby

14 03 2010

I apologize for the silence this past week. It has been an incredibly rough time. From working like a dog for CVS pharmacy as a technician (aka RETAIL) and battling corporate American greed and profit hoarding, to feeling a general sense of unfulfillment with life in the suburbs, which tends to happen about every other week or so, to discovering that plan A of “Project Move to London” fell through, to being graced with the presence of someone staying in my home that I truly admire, to examining the life I am being forced to lead – everything has been trying.

To begin with, working in a pharmacy environment and realizing just how greedy big corporations are has been sickening. The pharmaceutical companies, the insurance companies, and the American meat producers are all out to take your money and leave you for dead (so the funeral homes can have a stab at your wallet too?). It goes like this: eat the meat that is so stuffed with antibiotics and hormones, not to mention tortured relentlessly, so you can get sick and pay the insurance companies an outrageous deductible or co-pay for the drugs that the pharmaceutical companies create that you have inevitably become immune to anyways, all for the “safety” and “security” of knowing you are caring for your family, the American way. It literally makes me frightened to have children. Who in their right mind would raise a human being in an environment where you cannot enter the facility that is raising and packaging the meat you eat? Or who the hell would want to pay $500 a month for insurance for a healthy family, and god forbid, nearly $1000 and raising annually for a family with a sick parent or child plus deductibles and co-pays, etc? And above all, who would put into their bodies a mixture of potent chemicals tested on 100 or so people over a period of a few years because their ever-so-trusted doctor (YES the doctors are in on it too) prescribed them something to sleep, or eat less, or lower their blood pressure, or feel happier, when in all seriousness, it’s probably the meat you’re eating that’s causing all that crap anyway?

It seems like such a logical question doesn’t it? Why would you willingly participate in this giant conspiracy and fork over thousands of dollars for a false sense of security? I know the answer, sadly. Its manipulation. Its trust in the “American way of life”. Its lack of a better option. Its ignorance. Doctors are not ever-knowing and ever-caring people who come to your home in the middle of the night when little Timmy is sick with a fever. In fact, you are lucky if your doctor spends more than 10 minutes alone with you in the room, just talking about what you are going through. Nurses are far over-worked and under-paid. Pharmaceutical companies don’t actually have your best interests at heart and the FDA doesn’t have time to keep up with the research and testing of every new drug or food that is created each year by these monsters. CEO’s of the meat giants don’t give a shit what they feed you. It’s all about what you buy and in how many quantities. They packaged 8 hotdogs and 6 hotdog buns for a reason… At the end of the day, it is all about the Benjamins baby.  $12.2 billion in profits last year for the big boys in pharmaceuticals. Think about it, and open your eyes to the sick cycle we all participate in. Support local farmers, grow your own veggies, eat nutritiously, use olive oil and switch to a different source of trusted protein. Cut out the assholes who cause the hypertension, through their food and their outrageous deductibles. Exercise and take some time to alter your way of life, for your kids. FANTASTIC article from an interesting source:


On another note, I recently found out I was not accepted to a graduate program in London after being shortlisted. It was disappointing, mainly because I could taste it, but nevertheless, the disappointment faded into an outright fervor. I am more determined than ever to figure this out and make it work, with work, however I possibly can. Internships, mass mailings of my CV, using every networking tool I have ever created, volunteering – whatever it takes. This life is too short to not do what you want. Is sounds sooo overdone, but I truly believe this with all my heart: anything can happen to the dozens of people around you, or to yourself. In this world, the stakes are high, the possibility of these moments of calm and happiness being snatched from you at any given point is tremendous. Relish in this, right now. If its good, love it. If it isn’t, change it. But don’t think for a second you have til next season, or next year, or next week to figure it out. It might be fatalistic, but it’s how you really push yourself into action, and save yourself from a life led unexamined as the saying goes…


6 03 2010

“Americans happy to spend the greater part of an afternoon whittling out tiny morsels of flesh from a vaguely menacing looking mollusk? This takes work, and for minimal instant gratification. But yes, maybe so. Maybe the world is becoming a better place. Maybe the virtues of curiosity, adventuresome eating, and the desire for cultural enlightenment will spread like lighting across all fifty states. And maybe the wizard will help me and Toto get back to Kansas.”

Monday night’s Bourdain episode on Ecuador made me laugh out loud. As culturally alluring as his others? No, but pretty damn humorous just the same. Another great line, “Next up – crabs. So many crabs you’ll think you woke up on the cast of Jersey Shore.” Snoookkkkieeee!

Also, the commercial for Texas tourism in between was pretty ridiculous: “Texas – It’s like a whole other country”. The hot girl in cowboy boots and braids riding a horse was as accurate as the lack of even ONE person of color in the commercial. Seriously, I love Texas but thats dispicable. However, they did do a great job of showing the Texas sky…but still. Not impressed.

SO excited about the Oscars! Will pick my contenders to win tomorrow…LOVE TOM FORD. More to come soon.


23 02 2010

HAD to share my daily horoscopes for yesterday, and today. I know what you’re thinking – “What a hack, she follows online horoscopes, the slight clout she might have had just went to shit, I’m done reading this blog”. But honestly, this website is uncanny.

Yesterday – All aspects of your life are serious business to you at the moment. You have choices to make concerning the direction of your future, so you have become introspective, analytical, and possibly a little critical of yourself and those around you. Be careful of any changes you make in your life. Don’t burn any bridges before weighing the consequences of your actions.

Today – The study of unusual subjects appeals to you at this stage in your life, and you could find that you have a certain amount of genius in some such things. Curiosity is strong, and pays off in ways you’d never suspect. Writing or speaking about radical social or technological ideas catches your interest, and could get you lots of positive attention. A “high-tech” phase. (Helloo! I’m blogging about radical social ideas! Right?!)

The link is placed on my sidebar labeled “Virgo”. Check out the yearly, monthly or daily horoscopes, even go back in time to see what it said for last year, you may be surprised. Its specific, detailed, and free. You know you want to…

Blood & Chocolate

20 02 2010

Since I last watched Reading Rainbow and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood on PBS as a child, I hadn’t taken another look at public broadcasting until I reached my junior year of high school when my dad would make me listen to NPR on the 45 minute drives to and from school. Then, of course, I discovered BBC and fell absolutely in love. While working at UT for the College of Communication, I had the opportunity to discover live streaming of the BBC radio in London with my morning coffee and suddenly, BBC America wasn’t good enough either. In a quest to find authentic UK broadcasting after moving back to Dallas, I found a 30 minute slot on PBS (channel 13) in the evenings where they show the UK version of the world news. With that, I also found my favorite short series on BBC, “Paris” with Sandrine Voillet.

While I have had a special bond with Italy since I was very young (I did a project on Michelangelo in the 4th grade), my appreciation and fascination for Paris came much later, and in fact, is still growing. After taking an AP history class in high school, I instantly identified the radical part of my personality through the French Revolution, completely empathizing with the proletariat, and discovering my tendency to lean towards anti-establishment Socialism (that’s for another post). The Enlightenment, the opulence, the writers, the propaganda, the way liberty was fought for and maintained – where the word revolution as we know it was created – is why I admire this city. So this morning, for the 5th time, I played the “Blood & Chocolate” episode of the series and felt my heart grow full of awe once again.

I LOVE how physically apparent history is in the city itself. You can literally walk through the streets, over the bridges, float on the canals and witness any major French historical event of significance commemorated or preserved in crests, arch’s, monuments, museums, cathedrals, plaques, and maybe less evidently, below the streets, in the food, music, fashion and much much more. There always seems to be a kinetic undercurrent of rebellion in that city, and even though I visited Paris for the first time at the age of 13, I understood then that the protests being held against McDonald’s were of their own caliber. No other city in the world (except maybe Kabul) would have protested anything with such fervour.

Moving forward, if accepted to the Graduate Program in Islamic Studies and Humanities in London, I hope to take this fascination with historical cities of revolution to my own heritage and background. While not many Muslim cities in the world are preserved the way Paris is, it would be wonderful to piece together my own religion’s glorious accounts and educate myself on what Islam left behind for the world. Having been educated in the West, there haven’t been many opportunities presented in my curriculum to grow fascinated with the Muslim dominance on the world – I most certainly know more about Christendom than I do about Islam and this is what I hope to correct in my future experience and worldview. I want to visit Istanbul and be as awestruck with it as I was with Paris or Rome.

I would highly recommend downloading this series if you are even remotely interested in Parisian culture; it spawns in you something inexplicable. It is well-made, sophisticated, yet quirky.


As for Sandrine, she is the quintessential Parisian – adorable, chic, and intelligent. Did I mention she is a Louvre-trained art historian? Adds to the appeal, doesn’t it 🙂


And since I am on the topic of Paris, I have to also encourage everyone to watch Paris, Je T’aime. DAMN good. Much much better than its Hollywood counterpart New York, I Love You.

Finally, thought this video on the tecktonik dance craze that hit the streets of Paris two years ago would be interesting. Rehman and I followed it when it hit, and even tried to learn a move or two (we looked like epileptic patients). Now, two years later, you can definitely see the effects of this “brand” in the US and elsewhere. The checkered jackets for boys and shirts for girls, short leather jackets, the “straight bangs” haircut, the florescent nails – all of it originated on the streets of Paris.


One step closer…

19 02 2010

This blog is really becoming a place to work on myself. I am excited to come back to it, throughout the day I find myself thinking about what I want to share next. It has definitely proven to be a space to explore topics I have always wanted to discover my views on. Sometimes, its better to just write than to discuss or debate. Its tough to always oppose or defend isnt it?

Anyways, today after nearly three weeks I went back to yoga. That room felt so comfortable, like home. It used to scare me, make my stomach turn, my head hurt. But today, finally, it felt just like coming home after a long trip. This is when you know that progress has been made I guess, when you can just move in and out of postures, or mouth the words being said by the instructor. Mind you, I am TERRIBLE at this. I cant touch my toes, I crack my back, neck, knees, wrists and fingers on an hourly basis, and I maintain a diet high in calories (cheese, olives, and cured meats tend to be a weakness, and lets not get started on the alcohol). But nonetheless, today I was proud of myself and I guess that really makes all the difference in practice of any kind. Those incredibly skinny and bendy girls in swimwear dont intimidate me anymore. The smell of sweat isnt distracting, even the heat drying out your scalp or lips isnt uncomfortable. All I focus on is me, and its become 90 minutes of my week where the world just slows down. No future, no past. Just right then, every minute, every second is spent working on whatever posture you are in, making it the best it can be. Sometimes thats all you can ask for out of a day.

As for the road to London, I was given some great news this morning. While nothing is final, and I dont want to jinx anything, I can say that I am much closer now than I was yesterday to making it out there. Keep the positive energies and vibes coming.

Shailin Garten-Amanpour

11 02 2010

In Bourdain’s episode on London and Edinburgh, he describes a short story he had written about “a hard working line cook. Tough, uncompromising, goes her own way, apologizes for nothing – something in common with the chefs I most admire in England.” This caught my eye for obvious reasons. Who are the people I admire most and why? Maybe this is a good place to start to figure out who I want to strongly become, and I think my next few posts will probably explore and subject you all to the people that seriously make me weak in the knees. For now I can leave you with this thought: in an ideal world, Ina Garten and Christiane Amanpour would be my lesbian mothers and Anthony Bourdain my misfit elder brother.

Also, on my BBC homepage, the fact of the day is “Human beings are born with only two inbuilt fears: the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling. All other fears are abnormal and have to be learned.” Interesting.

Purist til the death?

10 02 2010

Things the last few days have gotten to a frustrating low. I’ve become brooding and dark which yes, happens at times to my external and usually sunny disposition. I’ve realized I automatically expect people to understand what the hell I am saying or feeling without really expressing myself coherently (which is why this blog exists), and thus I expect them to have an automatic sense of courtesy and empathy towards me which is indefinitely unrealistic and beyond egotistical not to mention reproachful.

I am hard on people, especially people closest to me, and I expect people to do so much for themselves that I can so clearly see they need to do. Recent experiences with my visiting cousin going through more than a few ground-shaking issues, a friend taking a career-altering test, a potential dangerous encounter with an ex-boyfriend of a friend that would set me back a year or so in emotional progress, and an essay I read last month that I cannot stop thinking about that my friend Aly recommended (This Is Water by David Foster Wallace) regarding egotism, perspective, and higher education to say the least, has opened my eyes to more than a few flaws on my end. I am hard on people, but more than anyone else, I am hard on myself. I expect so much from people but am equally incapable at times of living up to my own expectations, which I still think shouldn’t be that difficult. It creates a sick cycle and leads to me finding a few loopholes to avoid disappointing myself.

My cousin mentioned he is a Purist, and while I am sure there are many interpretations of that label, to me it means you commit, devote, and surrender one thousand percent of yourself to what you believe. Consistency is key goes the saying. I am a Muslim who drinks and eats pork, hence I am not allowed in my own eyes to have a real relationship with Allah, thus my alternative has been Ganesh or Buddha or generally Om. I find peace there because I don’t feel judged, mainly because I haven’t read the scriptures or attended the temples which most certainly say there are rituals to follow and practices to be kept. And hell, its not really MY God…so in this case, ignorance has at least allowed me to ATTEMPT to find bliss, no matter how temporary. I also don’t think I can commit to one person my whole life, so my alternative is to not get married. I don’t know that I could be the kind of parent I aspire to be and I dont want to screw up my own kids, so I intend to adopt. These morbid and self-deprecating loopholes are what drive so many of my actions and its all to avoid one blatant fact: I have let down people (and myself) and I will continue to let down people (and myself) and I cannot come to terms with it or accept it as a part of life. It of course comes down to what other people think of me, but the most frightening are my own reprimands and guilt and ongoing arguments between the Purist in me, and the measly Human.

This has GOT to stop. How, I have no idea, but tonight the closest answer I can find is that I need to choose one and live it, truly be HAPPY with it. For now, I hope to be more like David Foster Wallace who has been called a social critic, a genius contemporary writer, and whose works have drawn readers and CRITICS alike. This is what happens when you are a Purist and honest and have these opinionated and insightful notions about society, education, religion, politics, etc. You stick to your guns, you tell it like it is, you make no apologies, and yes – you grow thicker, much thicker in my case, skin.

After some research, I found he killed himself in 2008 due to severe depression. This fact I must ponder over night and essentially figure out if its an acceptable potential end to a life led as such…